WIA awarded $3M grant to implement ‘Career Pathways’

Back row: Andy Miritello,(E&T Dept-Building Trades Instruc- tor) Marty Clay (Pinal County One Stop Center-Business Manager),Lana Chanda (E&T Dept, Director) , Kim Dutch- er, (GRIC-Community Manager), Danielle Spring (Gila River Business Owners Rep) Lavonne Murphy (E&T Adm. Asst) Front row: Eulonda Martinez (E&T Dept-WIA Coordinator), Chris- tine Collerton (VHM), Beverly Perry (Central AZ College- Coor- dinator Community Outreach), Stephanie Sauceda (TERO Direc- tor), Lorena Smith (Gila River Health Care-Education Director)

Back row: Andy Miritello,(E&T Dept-Building Trades Instruc- tor) Marty Clay (Pinal County One Stop Center-Business Manager),Lana Chanda (E&T Dept, Director) , Kim Dutch- er, (GRIC-Community Manager), Danielle Spring (Gila River Business Owners Rep) Lavonne Murphy (E&T Adm. Asst) Front row: Eulonda Martinez (E&T Dept-WIA Coordinator), Chris- tine Collerton (VHM), Beverly Perry (Central AZ College- Coor- dinator Community Outreach), Stephanie Sauceda (TERO Direc- tor), Lorena Smith (Gila River Health Care-Education Director)

Every year, hundreds of people of all ages pass through the offices of the Gila River Indian Community’s Employment & Training Department looking for help in trade skills, employment resources and on-the-job-training. The department is happy to oblige as many participants as it can within the confines of its budget, which is largely comprised of state and federal grants. Thanks to a new three million dollar grant, known as the Workforce Innovations Fund (WIF or “the Fund”), the folks at E&T will be able to expand their operations to an additional 30-40 people.

The purpose of WIF is to, “support innovative approaches to the design and delivery of employment and training services,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s solicitation for grant applications for the Fund. Furthermore, the DOL is using WIF to find agencies that can develop a model system that will later be replicated in workforce assistance programs across the nation.

The Workforce Innovation Fund is a new federal grant totaling nearly $147 million. “[WIF] Grants will support, enhance and evaluate innovative employment and training opportunities,” reads the DOL news release, “Twenty- six grants, ranging from $1 million to $12 million each, have been awarded to a combination of state workforce agencies and local workforce investment boards.” The largest grant awards went to the city of Los Angeles, California and the state of Ohio. The Gila River Indian Community was the only tribe awarded a grant from the Fund.
The winds of fate were at E&T’s back when they first learned of the Fund in 2010, for the department was already planning to institute a new service initiative called the Career Pathways System (CPS). Indeed, this means they were already going to expand their services, if only to a few people, but WIF allows this pilot group to be larger than they initially had in mind. The new system, which was already in development by E&T when they applied for WIF, fits almost perfectly into the parameters outlined by the WIF Grant solicitation’s description of purposes and goals. That’s why they won the $3 million.

In 2010, the Employment & Training Department received a federal travel grant to go to Washington, D.C. to learn about the Career Pathways System. State workforce assistance organizations around the country have been utilizing the CPS for about ten years but the Gila River Indian Community will be the first tribal nation to implement the system into its workforce assistance program. Shortly after deciding to move ahead with the CPS on Gila River, Lana Chanda , Director, E&T, received the Notice of Availability of Funds for WIF from the DOL.
Chanda, is quick to point out that although this new initiative will increase their current services, the Career Pathways System is not an E&T program in the sense that many community members have come to know their services, such as WIA, WEX or NEW. CPS is an innovative public workforce system of coordination among various community industries, such as construction, business, government, medicine and education, which is to be headed by a local employment and training service provider. “Innovative” and “system” were the winning words for GRIC E&T when applying for the WIF.
The Career Pathways Initiative website says, “The term ‘career pathway programs’ means a clear sequence of education coursework and/or training credentials . . . [that are] aligned with the skill needs of industries important to the regional or state economies in which they are located, and reflect the active engagement of employers in targeted industry sectors regarding the skill requirements for employment or career progression.”
Many industry sectors have already joined forces with GRIC E&T to create their Career Pathways System including River Rock Construction, the HuHuKam Hospital, Gila River Casinos, the Business Owner Association, CAC and tribal government. The Employment & Training Department will use a portion of the funds to create six new positions to handle the influx of new participants and hire a mandatory evaluator to monitor their progress over the three-year grant period.
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