Practitioner Spotlights are an opportunity to hear directly from individuals working successfully to improve SNAP E&T programs across the country.
What is Workforce Mid-South and what is your current role there?
Workforce Mid-South, Greater Memphis Local Workforce Development Board leads the way in connecting job seekers and employers. We do this by providing skills training and work opportunities for youth and adults, analyzing data to educate the public on workforce needs, and aligning community partners around workforce initiatives to help make Greater Memphis a place of economic opportunity for all.
I serve as the Director of WIOA Programs. My responsibilities include overseeing and training staff, partners, and all other stakeholders within the Greater Memphis area and developing and coordinating education and training programs. I direct and manage the strategic planning and administration of WIOA Title I programs while monitoring compliance of the local workforce development area.
What is your experience with SNAP E&T?
Beginning in 2019, as the SNAP E&T Program Coordinator for DHS and the SNAP E&T Grants Program Manager for the State DOL, I spearheaded the expansion of E&T third-party partnerships statewide with local state agencies, community and technical colleges, and community organizations to help move participants into employment through job search, skill-building, training, or education. Tennessee tripled its E&T third-party partnerships from four in FY19 to 13 in FY20.
Much of my work to help expand SNAP E&T in Tennessee focused on fostering an open-door environment conducive to positive dialogue with the State Department of Human Services staff and leadership, as well as core partners, building buy-in and broadening the vision for the program. It included efforts to standardize the third-party partner onboarding process to provide all new partners with a positive, informative, interactive, and service-oriented experience. Our SNAP E&T team toured across the State, providing technical assistance, and championing the need for co-enrollment and dual enrollment across workforce programs by leveraging and combining funding from WIOA core and non-core programs (e.g., SNAP E&T) offered at the American Job Centers.
Additionally, my work included developing a new partnership with DHS’ Childcare Services Division to implement childcare subsidies for E&T participants. This initiative has been a win-win for both agencies as SNAP E&T participants can utilize childcare spots that were otherwise unused.
Today, in my role as Director of WIOA Programs, I’m working on the Workforce + SNAP E&T Community Practice Project with the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB), providing peer-to-peer coaching to other boards to develop and drive a successful SNAP E&T program as a third-party partner or intermediary, and am working on an AARP Foundation grant to increase program participation and successful outcomes for individuals who are 50 years of age or older.
Based on your roles in both SNAP E&T and WIOA services what do you see as the importance of SNAP E&T in your local, as well as the national, workforce landscape?
My experience has shown that SNAP E&T does not present some of the barriers for customers that more restrictive WIOA-funded programs can unintentionally create. SNAP E&T is a flexible program that can make a potentially broad range of supportive services available to job seekers on SNAP and can include a variety of employment and training models well suited for SNAP participants.
The creativity afforded by SNAP E&T also allows local workforce boards to weave the different funding streams together, stretching their budgets to assist more individuals. SNAP E&T can fill gaps in funding where other funds are not able to assist. As the Director of WIOA Programs with Workforce Mid-South, I have seen local workforce providers in Greater Memphis and SNAP E&T partners develop a co-enrollment process between the SNAP E&T and WIOA Title I programs to maximize training and educational opportunities while at the same time ensuring participants receive wrap-around service.
SNAP E&T also allows non-profit and for-profit organizations to be contracted as third-party partners and reimbursed for eligible services when serving SNAP E&T enrolled participants. In Tennessee the number of partners has grown significantly over the past several years which has added capacity to the broader workforce system and presented a greater opportunity for cross-system collaboration. This is an opportunity for other States across the country to consider.
What is your current role at Portland Community College (PCC)?
I am the dean of Career Pathways and Skills Training at PCC, where I have had the chance to lead local and statewide programs that increase college access, completion and career opportunities.
How has your work at PCC intersected with SNAP E&T?
In this role, I’ve had the opportunity to lead Oregon’s Community College STEP Consortia. STEP is Oregon’s SNAP 50/50 program administered by Oregon’s Department of Human Services (ODHS). In its fifth year, the consortium includes all 17 community colleges. The budget has increased from $2.39 to $9.88 million, in order to serve more students and provide a broader array of support services. This success reflects the value Oregon’s community colleges have placed on investing in opportunity and braiding resources to support vulnerable populations. It’s also the result of working with a really talented team at ODHS, who have prioritized skills and post-secondary education as a key strategy to move families out of poverty. Building partnerships and creating a framework that promotes collaboration and local flexibility has allowed us to create a coalition that centers the voices and needs of marginalized communities.
In the Consortia, we amplify best practices through a community of practice. Nationally, I’ve really enjoyed working with FNS and ODHS to share information about our model, with hopes of encouraging more community colleges across the country to become SNAP E&T providers and intermediaries.
What is the importance of SNAP E&T to the mission of PCC, and specifically to PCC students?
SNAP E&T is core to the mission of community colleges and PCC’s focus on increasing equitable student success and opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the systemic inequities that have created opportunity gaps for BIPOC, immigrants, women, and those without a postsecondary credential. Many of our rural communities have also been left out in the last economic recovery. STEP allows colleges to design programs and services that address these systemic inequities and to provide students with the resources they need to advance in their career pathways. Holistic coaching and financial supports can make a tremendous difference in who can access and complete college to secure good jobs, especially for adult students. We have heard from countless students at PCC and across the State, that STEP has transformed their lives and the trajectory for their families.
Moving forward, what are your goals to increase the impact of SNAP E&T at PCC and within Oregon’s colleges?
I hope we continue to increase understanding of what STEP can offer students—at the college, community, and State level. There also remains much potential to expand STEP at the colleges, with increased public and philanthropic funding. STEP has been a catalyst that has helped highlight the basic needs insecurity facing students and how critical it is to connect students with benefits like SNAP. Along with having staff who can help students navigate benefits, it’s equally important to take a student-centered approach to reduce stigma. My hope is that SNAP E&T can help colleges improve how we connect students with anti-poverty programs and public benefits. We need college staff and faculty to be just as comfortable referring students to SNAP and SNAP E&T, as they are to Pell grants and scholarships. All are important resources that can help eligible students reach their goals.
What do you see as the importance of SNAP E&T in the national workforce landscape?
Nationally, we know from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce that 99% of jobs created in the last recovery went to individuals with some post-secondary education. As we focus on rebuilding our economy, SNAP E&T will be a key strategy to increase access to post-secondary education so everyone can build the skills needed for good jobs. It’s central to creating career pathways, and addressing the rural and urban opportunity divides. As policymakers determine what investments will drive an inclusive recovery, SNAP E&T should be part of any workforce, human service, or higher education plan.
*Kate Kinder has left Portland Community College and now works at The National Skills Coalition.
What is your current role at the State of Maine’s DHHS?
Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides health and social services to approximately a third of the State's population. Within DHHS, the Office for Family Independence (OFI) determines eligibility and issues benefits for several programs including SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF. OFI also oversees our SNAP E&T program.
At OFI, I am the Special Projects Manager for SNAP. In this role, I oversee SNAP E&T, SNAP-Ed, SNAP Outreach, and other SNAP roles. This leadership role includes developing these programs by procuring and managing contracts with quality providers, outreach to community-based organizations, writing annual plans and budgets, and working as the federal liaison for our agency and providers.
How has your work with DHHS/OFI intersected with SNAP E&T?
My management experience prior to OFI was in the areas of policy, program development, research and evaluation. I think this background was essential to the SNAP E&T program development we began at OFI. After assuming this role, DHHS had a goal to expand programming by using 50% reimbursement funding and contractors skilled in working with participants who are often not job ready or have multiple barriers to employment.
We began the process of developing expertise in this area supported by FNS and SNAP to Skills technical assistance. We started with only one SNAP E&T provider, and now we have 6 providers delivering a broad array of services statewide complemented by robust case management.
While Maine’s population and programming are small compared to many States, the growth we have seen in our SNAP E&T program after implementing the third-party 50% reimbursement model is significant. In FY17 we served 102 participants, while in FY21 we project serving 395 participants. And our program budget has roughly tripled in that time.
What is the importance of SNAP E&T to the mission and work of DHHS?
SNAP E&T plays a crucial role in helping Mainers get the skills they need to become more self-sufficient, which is a major mission of our Department. I believe that our providers identify strengths in our participants that help them become more confident in their job and career moves. We learn new perspectives every day from our small base of providers. SNAP E&T will continue to be key to helping Maine residents move away from food insecurity and into more satisfying and self-sufficient lives.
Moving forward, what are your goals to increase the impact of SNAP E&T in Maine?
We look forward to broadening both the scope of SNAP E&T services available and the variety of providers that participants can select from. I think the key to increased participation will be providing those broad choices to participants that suit their unique interests. We have started developing some innovative features for our SNAP E&T programming, such as operating a demonstration project to allow for a full year of job retention services and supports for our participants who have attained jobs. We are also supporting more post-secondary educational opportunities for our participants through programs leading to in-demand occupations with good wage potential. We work with our Maine Department of Labor and utilize their rich data to determine which programming meets that threshold.
What is CSCU?
The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, comprised of 12 community colleges, 4 State universities, and one fully-online college, contribute to the creation of knowledge and the economic growth of the State by providing affordable, innovative, and rigorous educational programs. Our learning environments transform students and support an ever-increasing number of individuals to achieve their personal and career goals. We offer an array of programs from short-term workforce or enrichment offerings to certificate and degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
What is Your Current Role with CSCU?
I am the Chief of Staff/Chief Operations Officer at the CSCU Systems Office, which serves under the direction of the Board of Regents for Higher Education and supports all 17 colleges and universities through finance and grants, policy and research, government relations, public affairs and marketing, human resources, and IT.
How has your work with and prior to CSCU intersected with SNAP E&T?
I came to my current position as a former non-profit leader and advocate for workforce education and training. SNAP E&T was underutilized in Connecticut at that time and I urged lawmakers to expand this important federal program. Once at CSCU, I, along with my President, met with the Department of Social Services (DSS) and encouraged them to expand the program beyond the 3 colleges already serving as SNAP E&T partners. We promised to expand SNAP E&T to all 12 community colleges under our leadership. Working with DSS, we were able to accomplish this goal as well as expand program offerings available to students.
What is the importance of SNAP E&T to CSCU colleges and students?
We have so many Connecticut residents who need training to improve their employment opportunities. If they don’t qualify for other federal or state programs, they must pay for their training on their own, which severely limits their enrollment and opportunities for better jobs. SNAP E&T is a great resource for these individuals. It also supports the engagement of a SNAP Coordinator who helps students participating in SNAP E&T to address personal and academic issues that may impact their ability to complete programs. This one-on-one attention is vital for student engagement and success and is often not available to students who are on other forms of assistance or paying for their own education.
What do you see as the importance of SNAP E&T from a broader perspective?
Our economy will continue to change, and we should be prepared for individuals to come and go from the labor market as the requirements of the workforce change. Having the opportunity to enroll in SNAP E&T can help those needing to upskill as well as those that are looking for new work. SNAP E&T is a hand up in terms of the training and the support services it provides. More programs should be modeled like this, addressing both the personal and training needs of participants. I also believe it’s important to catch people as quickly as we can when they slip into unemployment and help them move into new training and work before they lose confidence in themselves and their skills. SNAP is an early indicator of need and if we move quickly when they apply to get them engaged in E&T, I believe we’ll get good results for the program and participants.
What Does Jewish Vocational Services of Boston Do?
JVS provides adults with education, skills training, and job opportunities to help them advance to economic self-sufficiency. While we work with all adults looking to learn more and earn more, we particularly focus on the immigrant community. This is in the DNA of our organization and about one-third of Boston’s workforce is non-native born. There are two things we’re most proud of about our services. The first is that we offer a continuum of education and employment options: whether you are a low-skilled new immigrant needing contextualized English for your first job, or whether you want a short-term certification up to an AA degree at a community college, JVS has programming to support you. The second is JVS’ strong relationship with local employers. We support them with incumbent worker training and provide them with new workers from our other programs. Employers compensate JVS for these services, supporting our model. JVS operates most of our own training with nearly 200 staff, most of whom are instructors or career navigators. Our programs target multiple sectors, emphasizing the life sciences/healthcare sector. We typically serve between 15,000 – 20,000 people every year. JVS also operates the downtown Boston Career Center, part of the one-stop system.
What is Your Role at JVS?
I am the President and CEO and have been with JVS for 13 years. I see my role as having three main functions. The first is forming and sustaining the partnerships that we need to support our work. The second is helping to support JVS staff to achieve a culture of excellence that helps us deliver on our strategies. And the third is helping JVS stay ahead of the curve on changing trends in workforce development and the labor market so that the work we do is relevant and has maximum impact.
What is Your Experience with SNAP E&T?
When I came to JVS I was aware of the existing SNAP E&T program in Massachusetts and its potential for increasing services for SNAP participants both at JVS and statewide. JVS became a third-party provider in the State’s E&T program. Not long after, Massachusetts implemented some program design changes to SNAP E&T that made it more difficult for third-party providers, and JVS’ SNAP E&T program essentially ended. I then had an opportunity to work with a new Governor and administration, advocating for them to figure out a better way to administer SNAP E&T because of its enormous potential benefit for Massachusetts. We pulled together a day-long meeting with USDA/FNS present and we began the work of redesigning the program. Within a few months, the State’s Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) had a new model in place and the program has been growing ever since. JVS has also been a partner to DTA serving ABAWDs through SNAP E&T.
What is So Valuable about SNAP E&T to Your Mission and Work?
SNAP E&T has allowed JVS to expand our services, but we also have a public policy and systems change agenda and supporting SNAP E&T is integral to that work. A big reason for this is that SNAP E&T as a program can really emphasize skills training. I believe it is the largest source of federal support for workforce training in the Boston area and training is critical for disadvantaged individuals and populations if they are to access good jobs. SNAP E&T also has broad eligibility; it can, for example, serve low-wage workers, not just the unemployed. And the 50 percent reimbursement that SNAP E&T can provide is a huge incentive for States, philanthropy, and private industry to invest more in employment and training services. I can’t think of any other program that has this feature.
Note: S2S interviewed Jerry Rubin for this Spotlight just prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. To hear more from Mr. Rubin about how JVS Boston has adapted its services to the pandemic, please listen to the June 2020 SNAP to Skills webinar, Adapting SNAP E&T Services For the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.