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DSS, Workforce Commission Partner to Increase Workforce Participation, Self-Sufficiency for Clients

 LAFAYETTE – The Department of Children & Family Services and the Louisiana Workforce Commission announced today they are working together on a pilot integration program designed to more effectively use available resources of each agency to identify job-ready clients and efficiently place them into demand jobs with opportunity for career growth.

Connections to Work, which is being implemented in the Lafayette metropolitan area, will streamline and improve employment and job training activities for DSS clients, including food stamp participants, welfare-to-work job training, vocational rehabilitation job-ready consumers and those who are aging out of the foster care system.

“To grow Louisiana’s economy, we must place skilled workers into demand jobs,” said LWC Executive Director Curt Eysink.  “By working with DSS to identify their clients who are able to fill these jobs, we not only increase the state’s labor pool, we also move people toward financial independence and career growth.”

In the initial phase of the pilot program, job-ready clients receiving services from DSS who need minimal support to enter the workforce will be connected with staff members at the LWC’s Business and Career Solutions Centers.  Job-ready clients are those who are determined to be able to enter the workforce within 90 days.  LWC staff will determine the best course of action for these clients with the ultimate goal being self-sufficiency.

To streamline services and enhance efficiencies, all DSS workforce activities will be carried out in close cooperation with the LWC’s Office of Workforce Development toward the common goal of ensuring clients are able to transition from public assistance to a career. 

“Providing new opportunities and connections to workforce resources for our clients addresses a major foundation of our mission at DSS – to provide families and individuals with opportunities for self-sufficiency,” said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols.  “Connections to Work combines our commitment to this mission with the expertise of the Louisiana Workforce Commission to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our clients by identifying those who are ready to work and
connecting them with the resources they need to join the workforce.”

A key to making the pilot program successful will be the collaboration with the greater Lafayette metropolitan area business community, Workforce Investment Boards and employers looking to fill job vacancies.  LWC staff members will work closely with employers to connect DSS clients with suitable positions in high-demand job openings.

Also at the news conference was Aubrey Helfand, who received Strategies to Empower People (STEP) services through DSS and workforce services through the Lafayette Business Career Solutions Center, and is now employed full time as an administrative assistant at FlightSafety, a leading aviation training company. 

“Being able to receive these services really helped me rebuild my confidence in being a good employee,” said Helfand, who had been out of the workforce for five years.  After being referred to the LWC by DSS, Helfand was first put to work temporarily at the Business and Career Solutions Center through a National Emergency Grant from Hurricane Gustav that allowed her to assist others with their job search needs.

Helfand began working at FlightSafety in June, and said she loves the job.  “They made me feel welcome on day one,” she said.  “I am happy to be a part of the solution.”

A second phase of the pilot will expand the program throughout the Acadiana region.

Future expansions of the program will include two additional target groups:  those needing mid-term supports to become job ready, and those who require long-term, intensive supports as well as access to other necessary supports including transportation and childcare prior to preparing for job-ready services.

The goal for the two state agencies is to use the pilot as a means to develop a statewide model that will place people who need to work in demand jobs and on a path to financial independence.
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