New Vision, an economic development organization in Yakima County, has already started the ball rolling on a welfare reform program designed to open doors of new opportunity in the workplace.
Responding to a request for proposals from the state Community Trade and Economic Development agency, New Vision will be partnering with the Yakima Chamber of Commerce to help people on public assistance find work. New Vision Director David McFadden, though, sees the program expanding into the Lower Valley based on his agency's involvement with businesses outside of Yakima.
McFadden said New Vision will be acting as a middle man between such public agencies as the Department of Social Health and Services and the employment securities department to help find people on public assistance work opportunities.
The program, called the bridge project, is part of the state's welfare reform plan.
"Washington state has had a lot of success (with welfare reform)," said McFadden. "The rolls of welfare recipients have declined dramatically."
The program is designed to serve people still receiving public assistance that for one reason or another can't find a job. McFadden said some of the problems facing people on public assistance deal with education, disabilities or transportation issues.
"There are a myriad of issues," said McFadden.
McFadden said there are still a few kinks in the program as it starts to take shape in the early stages. He said the main issues are with communication and referrals of clients for the program.
The way the program is designed to operate is that New Vision will be working with members of the Yakima Chamber of Commerce, which is between 800 to 1,000 members strong, to conduct job shadowing programs with people referred to the bridge project. The referrals are set to come from agencies such as DSHS and employment security.
New Vision will work with the clients using an assessment form that identifies strong and weak areas that the person needs to address to become part of the work force, said McFadden.
McFadden said the end goal of the program is to help produce qualified employees for prospective jobs with local businesses.
While the job shadowing project is a partnership with the Yakima Chamber of Commerce, McFadden said he is more than happy to work with any Lower Valley business that may be interested in being part of the bridge project.
McFadden said while employers can't be forced to hire people taking part in the program, he is hoping that it does turn out that way. McFadden said one of the biggest issues of doing business in Yakima County is finding qualified, worthwhile employees to keep. McFadden said he is hoping through this project that employers will find the type of employees they are looking for.
McFadden said there should be an economic benefit to the Valley through this program, which will conclude at the middle of 2005. He said with people being productive members of the workforce the economic benefit should come through.
McFadden said he is excited about the program, but is taking a cautious approach. McFadden said his ultimate goal with the program is to try and create a successful model that can be used in other areas.
"This is not easy stuff," said McFadden. "There is a reason why after four or five years we still have a WorkFirst population."