By CARL E. FEATHER - firstname.lastname@example.org
— Commissioners last week approved a contract between A-Tech and the Ashtabula County Department of Job and Family Services for the Key Opportunity program that helps welfare recipients improve their job readiness skills.
ACDJFS originally contracted with the school in July 1, 2009, to provide the basic skills training and job placement services that are required for individuals who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, also known as Ohio Works First. When the contract expired this summer, the ACDJFS requested that the board enter into monthly extensions while the department and school revamped the program.
“We hate to be dragging this out, but we want to do it right for the long term,” said Rudy Campagne, contract specialist, during a work session with the board earlier this month.
Campagne told the board that the department wanted to build new performance measures into the program before signing a longer contract with the former Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School.
“Federal and state rules and regulations require Ohio Works First recipients to participate in activities which lead to self-sufficiency,” said Cynthia Nagy, assistant program administrator, in an email. “In addition, locally, director (Patrick Arcaro) wanted to see increased outcomes/deliverables for the money that is being spent on the program.”
Under the prior arrangement, program participants underwent an assessment of skills and interests upon entering Key Opportunity, then were placed in remedial academic classes with the goal of raising their proficiency by two grade levels. Paul Grimm, social program specialist for the ACDJFS, told commissioners last week that the new program will continue to provide the orientation and access. However, Nagy said the new approach immediately puts students into the job-search components of the program, concurrent with building proficiency in academics.
“We are trying to get more of them placed into this four-week cycle and then on to a work site from there,” Nagy told the board. “We are focusing on the job search program, plus basic skills.”
The school will receive an additional $537 per student who obtains employment through the program and works a minimum of 30 hours per week in the new job, Grimm said. Commissioners made $349,933.18 available to the program from Nov. 1 to Sept. 30.