A comprehensive employment program established this month in Douglas County will help more than 600 welfare recipients find jobs, an official with the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services said.
Jim Baze, administrator of employment preparation services and coordinator of the local KanWork program, said he is excited about the program's potential.
"Our job is to end the (welfare) cycle," he said. "We're going to get them off the merry-go-round."
The KanWork program, which has been piloted in four Kansas counties since January, is expanding to several other counties.
The program, which emphasizes work and creation of job opportunities, was established in Douglas County on July 1.
Baze said five program staff members, a volunteer coordinator and a community program consultant have been hired at the local SRS office, 19th and Delaware, to administer the program.
Previously, the local office employed just one full-time and one part-time workers helping people on welfare find work.
BAZE SAID that in addition to the new staff, the establishment of the KanWork program will allow SRS officials to educate and train welfare recipients with various job skills. KanWork also provides support services such as child care and transportation while welfare recipients are enrolled in the program.
"Our hope is to average 18 to 20 months (for job training)," Baze said. "It may turn out to be lower than that."
KanWork enables people who are on welfare to participate in a variety of job-training programs that focus on everyting from teaching trade skills to learning how to write a resume, he said.
Depending on the individual's skill level, participants may learn a skill at an area vocational school or junior college, obtain a GED diploma or improve their reading level through the program.
KanWork also features a "Job Club" program in which participants learn how to dress properly, prepare for a job interview and receive tips on keeping a job.
KANWORK also provides medical benefits, child care, and grants for up to one year after participants are employed to help them make the transition into the working world.
Baze said KanWork participants choose programs and skills based on their personal interest, rather than being directed into various job areas by SRS officials.
"A client is more likely to be successful in something where they are making the decision instead of an area where we are telling them they should go," he said.
"Of course, that has its limitations," he said, adding that KanWork will not pay for training in job areas in which employment prospects are low.
Baze said more than 100 people in Douglas County currently receive some job-training assistance. The KanWork program will allow more than 600 people to be trained during the next nine or 10 months, he said.
BAZE SAID that about 44 percent of people on welfare have no high school diploma and 67 percent have no job skills or training.
He said that many welfare recipients could hold jobs with the opportunity to learn self-sufficiency.
Officials at SRS offices in Topeka were unavailable this morning to assess cost of the Douglas County program.