Homeless families and unemployed workers in Pierce County got welcome news today as WorkForce Central announced it received a $6 million innovation grant. The grant, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation Fund, provides housing options, pays for job skills and vocational training, employment counseling and more.
“With unemployment in Pierce County at 9.5 percent, these funds provide a critical boost to our efforts to put unemployed and underemployed workers back to work and help employers find skilled workers for in-demand fields,” said Linda Nguyen, CEO of Tacoma-Pierce County WorkForce Central.
Beginning in fall 2012, WorkForce Central will partner with two Workforce Investment Boards representing Skagit, Whatcom and Yakima counties to launch a Housing and Employment Navigator Model over a 40‐month period. The model began in 2010, the result of housing and workforce leaders in the Puget Sound region coming together to simplify and integrate the fragmented social service systems that help the unemployed and the homeless.
WorkForce Central’s navigator combines social services, housing and workforce support to create a “one-stop shop” for homeless families, unemployed workers and others who may need multiple services. In addition, WorkForce Central’s partnerships with businesses and training programs help guide unemployed workers to in-demand fields, creating an economic development benefit while helping move individuals and families from temporary housing or employment to a career path and family self-sufficiency.
The grant will allow WorkForce Central and its partners to serve 400 participants over three years. Funds will be used for education and job skills training, housing, transportation and employment assistance and placement.
“Every day we talk to people who really want to work, but lack the skills or education to land a job,” adds Nguyen. “These grant funds will really help us guide unemployed or underemployed people to the fields where there are opportunities, invest in them while they are going to school or learning new skills and support them through their job search.”
The WorkForce Central grant is part of nearly $147 million in national grants from the U.S. Department of Labor, intended to develop and expand innovative strategies to help Americans return to work.
“I am so glad that this federal investment will allow WorkForce Central and its partners to help homeless workers get the skills they need to get back on the job and back on track,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Homeless families have unique challenges when it comes to education and training, and this grant from the Workforce Innovation Fund will help local communities develop new ways to partner and deliver the support these families need to succeed.”