As the Program Manager for Iowa's Food Assistance Employment & Training program for Kirkwood Community College in Iowa, Andrew Schramm works to bridge the program’s administration between the Iowa Department of Human Services and member colleges, and to support member colleges’ frontline staff. He chose to participate in the Learning Academy to learn strategies for expanding Iowa’s E&T program beyond community college technical training programs.
Describe your experience in the Learning Academy. What were your biggest takeaways? What sessions or experiences impacted you the most?
My biggest takeaway from the Academy is that we are all, collectively, still learning, have a lot yet to learn, and are still doing great work for the SNAP recipients in our programs. All States operate their E&T programs in different ways, so by thinking outside the framework of Iowa’s program I was able to consider the full extent of possibilities our E&T program may take in the future. Sessions on planning and referral networks were beneficial to expanding my thinking and having the opportunity to present and receive feedback on a months-long project from FNS and SJI staff and my Academy colleagues was valuable to thinking critically about my work.
In your specific role, how did the Learning Academy support you in building your skills and having an impact on SNAP E&T?
The Academy helped me build my skills in two ways: giving the space and support for critical reflection on Iowa’s current program, and expanding my knowledge base and colleague network for the future of the program. I am applying what I learned in the Academy to provide a better service to our program partners who, in turn, provide a better service to participants. Also, I’ve been able to use my knowledge of and connections to other States’ programs to consider new avenues for Iowa’s program.
Tell us about your Learning Academy project. How did it advance your learning? How does it help advance SNAP E&T?
I created a Partner Onboarding Toolkit that is intended to offer perspectives on best practices, lessons learned, and objective analysis based on experiences gained through program expansions. It includes guidance on strategic planning, drafting of applications, the partner selection process, and onboarding new partners, all through the practical lens of Iowa’s 2015 and 2016 expansions as case studies. I wanted to create a tool other States could use when considering expanding to new populations and partners, while taking a critical eye to my own work in expanding Iowa’s program. I now have a much clearer vision of how Iowa’s future expansion efforts may look and how to achieve better results through the process.
What advice would you give to future Learning Academy participants? Is there anything you know now about preparing for the Academy that you wish you would have known before you started?
Since each State offers E&T services differently, the Academy is a great way to learn about strategies to expand to new methods of service delivery. That said, it is also a valuable opportunity to look internally at your current processes, partners, populations served, etc. and make critical judgments on your program.
I wish I would have known that I was not alone in the number of questions I had on the various aspects and possibilities in the E&T program. The reason the Academy is in place is because we, collectively, are still learning and working to improve the services we offer. There is no reason to be apprehensive towards or intimidated by your Academy colleagues because everyone is looking to new possibilities and different ways to improve.
What are your plans for the future? How do you plan to continue your SNAP E&T work?
Iowa’s E&T program is now in eight of the State’s 15 community colleges and has yet to partner with community-based organizations. We hope to expand our training opportunities to all areas of the State and expand the types of services offered through new providers over the coming years. Also, in the foreseeable future there is the potential for the program to advance technologically with a comprehensive data management system for the State’s workforce partners, which will allow for a more agile E&T service delivery and case management process. I have a great deal of pride in the program I’ve helped to construct and hope to be a part of the program’s continued progress and success.