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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: March 20, 2015


$18.8 Million Grant to be Used for Job Training with Local Partners on 4 Employment Tracks

NEW CASTLE (March 20, 2015) - The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) has been awarded a three-year, $18.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with local partners in providing job training and intensive case management to Delawareans who receive food benefits and have limited job skills or work experience. Delaware is one of 10 states to receive the competitive grants seeking collaborative ways to move people into employment.

The employment and training program called Delaware WONDER (Work Opportunity Networks to Develop Employment Readiness) will be led by DHSS' Division of Social Services (DSS), which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Delaware. About 20 percent of the 150,000 Delawareans who receive food benefits will be eligible for the job training. The remaining clients are seniors, people with disabilities, children, or adults already in the workforce.

As part of the grant, the Division of Social Services will work with several state agencies and local partners, including the Delaware Department of Labor (DOL), the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), the Delaware Workforce Investment Board (DWIB), $tand By Me, Central Baptist Community Development Corporation, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Food Bank of Delaware, Delaware Technical and Community College, Kraft Foods, and Career Team. To measure its effectiveness, the training program will be part of a national research study conducted by Mathematica.

DHSS expects to serve about 1,700 individuals each year - half will receive the new training services and the other half will be part of the control group for the research project and will receiving existing employment and training services. The employment and training program will offer intensive case management services to participants to further reduce the barriers to employment. Clients who take part in Delaware WONDER will be linked to needed community resources and will have a job readiness assessment done. From there, participants will be assigned to one of four career tracks based on aptitude and interest.

"In a competitive economy, not only in Delaware but across the world, good job skills are critical," Gov. Jack Markell said. "This innovative employment and training program through the Department of Health and Social Services will allow us to reduce the barriers to employment and help Delawareans improve their job skills and job readiness. I thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture for having confidence in Delaware's new path to self-sufficiency."

Delaware's congressional delegation, which supported DHSS' grant application, believes it will provide many benefits to Delawareans.

"This grant award will help Delaware provide additional employment services for the many Delawareans who receive SNAP benefits, but have difficulty finding and maintaining employment," said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. "This pilot project will help provide greater economic opportunities for families, while helping attract employers seeking a skilled, qualified workforce to our state."

"Job training programs like the one that will be piloted here in Delaware over the next three years provide real pathways to get people jobs," Sen. Chris Coons said. "Thousands of Delawareans, up and down the state are looking for an opportunity to earn a living but are unprepared for the jobs that are available. This federal grant, coupled with key community partnerships, will get those folks who are ready to work, trained and into the workforce."

"I'm very excited that Delaware will be one of just 10 states to receive federal grant funding for this employment readiness pilot program," said U.S. Rep. John Carney. "DE WONDER will help SNAP recipients develop the skills and training they need to successfully begin the next phase of their careers. Thank you to Delaware's Department of Health and Social Services and its partners for giving these members of our community a chance to improve their quality of life and provide a more stable future for their families."


The Eastside Rising project is an existing collaboration between the Central Baptist Community Development Corporation, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Delaware Workforce Investment Board, Laborers International Union of North America Local 55, Wilmington Housing Partnership, and Habitat for Humanity created to take ownership of approximately 140-150 homes in East Wilmington and rehab them to achieve a dual goal of neighborhood revitalization and increased employment and training for disadvantaged adults in the state's highest poverty areas. This pre-apprenticeship program is committed to serving clients with limited jobs skills and work experience, including those on probation/parole and individuals with disabilities.

Eastside Rising has committed to taking participants from the pilot as priority referrals. With the support of this grant, Eastside Rising estimates it can support up to 400 pre-apprenticeships during the three years, or about 11 pre-apprenticeships per month. Eastside Rising expects to maintain participants in paid pre-apprenticeships and transition them from one rehab project to another until permanent paid employment is found.


The Food Bank of Delaware's Culinary School has an annual capacity of 90 individuals statewide in its state-of-the-art training facilities in Milford and Newark, and is experienced in serving high-need populations, including individuals with low incomes, ex-offenders, veterans and individuals with disabilities.

The 39-week training program - 14 weeks in the kitchen and 25 weeks of wrap-around employment support services - is recognized as a certified trade school by the Delaware Department of Education.

Through the employment and training program, the Food Bank of Delaware will double the Culinary School's current capacity by adding 90 slots earmarked for pilot participants annually, 45 per location. Individuals who graduate from the program will be ready for full-time positions in the culinary trades.

"Workforce development through training opportunities in the food service industry has been of real interest to us since we started our culinary training program in 2002," Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe said. "The success stories that have resulted from our culinary training program show that these training opportunities really benefit the population that will be assisted through the SNAP Employment and Training funding. We are thrilled to be partnering with the State of Delaware on this exciting initiative that will get Delawareans back to work in industries that can provide a sustainable wage."


This track will offer participants a 90-day trial placement in a full-time entry level production position at the Kraft Foods manufacturing plant in Dover upon successful completion of the Certified Production Technician (CPT) program through Delaware Technical Community College. The technician program is a web-based independent-learning program that consists of four individual certificate modules: Safety; Quality Practices & Measurement; Manufacturing Processes & Production; and Maintenance Awareness. Candidates must earn all four certificates to receive the full CPT certification. Kraft Foods employs more than 400 entry-level production workers, and has committed to place as many as 60 CPT graduates per year.


The Department of Labor's Department of Employment and Training (DET), with the assistance of the Delaware Workforce Investment Board, operates the "one-stop" employment and training system in Delaware through four full-service offices as well as a specialty office. It is a comprehensive employment and training system serving all Delaware residents. The electronic backbone of the system is Delaware JobLink (DJL). The system served 57,000 job applicants in the last 12 months, linking employer and applicant needs.

The Department of Employment and Training will also offer a new and unique service over and above the traditional One-Stop location offerings. This will be a bundled service package designed to provide individualized support to both work-ready and non-work ready pilot participants. Placement specialists will receive specialized training that will allow them to provide both basic education instruction and soft skills training.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.