Training Offered Welfare Recipients

October 6, 2006
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LANSING — Five employment agencies are trying to help struggling families move off welfare and into long-lasting skilled jobs.

Michigan Works offices within Wayne, Kent, Oakland, Monroe, Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac and Lapeer counties were awarded $1.17 million for the 18- month JET pilot program.

“The Jobs, Education and Training approach fundamentally changes the way we move families off welfare and toward self-sufficiency,” said Marianne Udow, director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. “Instead of telling welfare recipients to ‘get a job, any job,’ the program supports them in developing job skills that help them move out of poverty.”

Under the state’s current welfare assistance program, recipients must first look for work and then receive training, said Brian Marcotte, section chief of the welfare reform unit at the Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

But under the JET program, Marcotte said, applicants are tested before they look for work. He said that approach shows people their problems early so they can receive training before they search for a job, making their search more effective.

People can be trained for anything from interview skills and résumé writing to earning a GED or job-specific training.

If the pilot program is successful, it would be expanded to eight more Michigan Works offices, Marcotte said.

Benzie, Grand Traverse, Muskegon and Antrim are among the counties that will be covered by the eight work offices. Marcotte said the expansion programs could begin operating by December.

Michigan Works offices across the state work with business leaders, local governments and state officials to offer support services, employment and training programs to help develop the state’s work force.

JET will also extend post-employment services from 90 to 180 days.

Post-employment services are important, Marcotte said, because they help people adjust to their new jobs by paying for clothing, transportation and day care.

“When you’ve got a job you’re not on your feet (financially) within three months,” he said.

Marcotte said that the Michigan Works Employment and Resource Center for Manistee County is one of the eight work offices that JET will expand to after the pilot programs conclude.

Phyllis Steketee, career adviser at Northwest Michigan Works in Manistee, said she would like to see the JET program expand local opportunities.

She said providing the right training will lead people to good jobs.

“I have a large number of workers that don’t have a GED,” she said. “What’s available to them? Not much.”

JET will be helpful, Steketee said, because parents won’t have to work when they’re training or taking classes. It’s too hard on parents to take care of their kids, work and go to school at the same time, she said.

The program will also help the state’s economy because a skilled work force will help attract new businesses to the state, Steketee said.

“I think there’s lots of possibilities for folks.”     

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