This was originally posted in Portland Community College's blog.
A growing group of institutions led by Portland Community College is helping Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients build a pathway to living-wage jobs.
PCC, Chemeketa, Klamath, Lane, Linn-Benton and Mt. Hood community colleges have established Oregon Community College SNAP 50/50 Consortia. It is a $2.4 million budgeted reimbursement, third-party match program, administered federally by Food and Nutrition Services and statewide by the Oregon Department of Human Services. The colleges are reimbursed for 50 percent of their expenses related to the project while the other half comes from existing college resources, like state, local grant or foundation funding.
“Based on a study, this strategy had a huge return of investment, not just in terms of the federal match generated to support Oregonians, but also in terms of getting people out of poverty so that they don’t need SNAP or other public assistance,” said Kate Kinder, Career Pathways and Skills Training director. “In times of tight budgets, this is a strategic way to maximize funding while still prioritizing student success, access, and equity.”
Opportunities to Advance
The goal of the project is to increase employment and training opportunities for individuals and families who are receiving SNAP, which offers food benefits to eligible, low-income individuals and families. Through the SNAP 50/50 Consortia, colleges will offer extra support and resources that can help students complete their GED, increase their English skills, earn a college credential, do an internship, and/or find a job that leads to a living-wage career.
“In collaboration with DHS, the colleges came together to increase the resources for those who are food insecure, and often needing to juggle work, family, and school in order to increase their economic situation,” added Kinder. “I think it can be a really impactful program.”
The statewide project, which will serve 484 individuals in the first year, is using the community colleges’ nationally recognized Career Pathways framework and a skills-based approach to support SNAP recipients as they access education and training, and transition into employment. The colleges’ Career Pathways support students to advance in their education and career, and offer three- to nine-month stackable certificates that lead to a job and a degree. The Community College Consortia will collaborate and align with other 50/50 providers and workforce programs, like Central City Concern, New Avenues for Youth, Outside In, and Worksystems, Inc.’s Career Boost initiative in the Portland Metro area.
“The project is starting out slowly and colleges are being strategic and mindful with enrollment to ensure capacity, quality, and outcomes,” Kinder said. “The hope is to eventually have all 17 community colleges on board and part of the consortia.”
As an example of the 50/50 Consortia, students are getting extra coaching support in the Maritime Welding Career Pathway at PCC’s welding lab on Swan Island and in the Vigor Industrial’s shipyard. Thanks to a partnership between Vigor, PCC, and Worksystems Inc., students were able to receive WorkSource scholarships to pay for tuition, books, tools and equipment. Students can earn stackable credits, certificates, and industry recognized credentials that create an avenue to either employment with the likes of Vigor Industrial or into the college’s Welding Technology associate degree.
Modeled on Proven Program
Oregon DHS is on the cutting edge, and a national leader in how they are expanding SNAP 50/50 programming to align workforce systems and state resources, community based organizations, and community colleges. The Community College consortia was also fortunate to receive technical assistance from National Skills Coalition and the Seattle Jobs Initiative, to learn from Washington State’s successful SNAP 50/50 initiative called the Basic Food Employment and Training Program (BFET). In less than ten years, BFET grew from a project of one community college and four community-based organizations with a budget of $1.41 million to encompass 34 community colleges and professional technical colleges, 29 community-based organizations and a budget of $36.6 million.
“With DHS’s leadership and vision, and our experience learning from Washington community colleges and their data-driven model, we are positioned to create effective anti-poverty programs that can have a big impact in communities across the state,” Kinder said.
For more information, contact Kate Kinder at either firstname.lastname@example.org, or (971) 722-6271.
Photos and Story by James Hill.