Estrella Mountain Community College

Estrella Mountain Community College is one of 10 Maricopa Community Colleges involved in the Route to Relief partnership. (File Photo)

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, interim chancellor of the Maricopa Community Colleges, have announced a new partnership called Route to Relief.

The new program, supported by the city’s federal pandemic relief dollars, provides free tuition, monthly stipends and employment assistance in eligible programs across the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges — including Estrella Mountain Community College — in high-demand workforce areas such as semiconductors, health care, bioscience, manufacturing and information technology to eligible individuals.

Last year, the mayor and city council approved $7 million to establish the partnership, aimed specifically at helping those disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This new, collaborative program aims to provide Phoenix residents with opportunities to advance in their careers by accessing tuition, books and fee assistance up to $5,000, career navigation services and employment assistance. Eligible recipients may also access additional financial support, a monthly stipend of up to $1,500, to address barriers to accessing training and employment, such as child care and transportation.

“While Phoenix achieved remarkable success in economic development, even during the pandemic, too many of our residents were severely burdened by lost employment and scarce opportunity during that same time period,” Gallego said. “To make our success sustainable, we must ensure education and training is available to people in every part of the city.

“By engaging with the MCCCD (Maricopa County Community College District) system, we are providing people with the opportunity to find their own success in these emerging fields.”

Dozens of programs are eligible for this funding in the following industries and occupations: bioscience and health care, financial services, information technology/cybersecurity, manufacturing, construction, early childhood education, community health services, electric vehicle technician/technology, entrepreneurship and small business, and hospitality and tourism. Programs vary depending on the college.

“As someone who has spent their career in education, I understand how critical the connection is between quality training and a lifelong career path,” Vice Mayor Laura Pastor said. “The partnership between Maricopa Community Colleges and the city of Phoenix will create a talented workforce pipeline that will act as a magnet for our existing companies and will help to attract new knowledge economy jobs, while providing Phoenix residents beneficial career opportunities.”

One of the eligible programs is the new Semiconductor Technician Quick Start, a two-week training program to expedite the development of skill sets needed to work in semiconductor manufacturing fabrication. With the arrival of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Gallego has made clear her plans for Phoenix to become an international hub for semiconductor manufacturing. The Quick Start program is one way to fill the pipeline with workers ready to advance into this rising industry.

“This program comes at a pivotal time for North Phoenix, as we are poised to staff the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company plant,” District 1 Councilwoman Ann O’Brien said. “By the time it is fully operational, TSMC will staff employees in the thousands, and Route to Relief will ensure that our residents have the education and career development opportunities to not only be qualified but successful for those jobs and more.”

“The Maricopa Community Colleges is thrilled to launch this innovative partnership with the city of Phoenix to better meet the city’s workforce development goals and provide life-changing opportunities for residents,” Gonzales said. “Investing in workforce development initiatives, like this one, to support targeted industries like health care, manufacturing and bioscience, will yield a generous return.

“It has been an honor to partner with visionary leaders like Mayor Gallego and the Phoenix City Council to develop this partnership.”

Marie Sullivan, president of the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board, added, “We are pleased to be partners with Mayor Gallego and the city of Phoenix in responding to the needs of our communities. Our colleges are on the cutting edge with new workforce development programs as we continue to play a key role in the economic vitality of our region.

“We continue to establish new partnerships that are accessible and supportive to the diverse communities we serve. We can’t do it alone. Our internal and external stakeholders, like the city of Phoenix, are critical to our success.”

To learn more about the Route to Relief program and determine eligibility to apply, visit