November 2, 2015

The USDA?s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) has named Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) to create and manage the nation?s first Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment & Training (E&T) Center of Excellence (COE). The nearly $3.6 million contract will support the multiple activities of the SJI-led COE undertaken during the next two years to build, expand and improve SNAP E&T programs throughout the United States. Activities will include providing direct technical assistance to states, developing tools and resources supporting E&T program development, and creating a virtual hub facilitating the nationwide exchange of ideas, best practices, research, stories and data relating to the program.

The federal SNAP E&T program supports states? efforts to provide job-driven training services ? including vocational/skills training, job readiness, job development, and related supportive services ? to low-income adults on SNAP. Not well understood and under-utilized in many states, SNAP E&T received a big boost in 2014 when federal legislation, authored by Representative Susan Del Bene (WA), spurred a $200 million investment in ten state SNAP E&T pilots in a three-year initiative to develop and test new innovations within the program.? Today, more states than ever are seeking to build robust SNAP E&T programs, and FNS has made their success a priority, exemplified by its investment in the COE.

?The labor market is rapidly evolving,? Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. ?By 2020, two-thirds of jobs will require some education beyond high school. To compete for these jobs, SNAP participants need skills training and education, not just help with a resume. USDA is committed to building job-driven E&T programs that help SNAP participants find and keep gainful employment in order to build a stronger future for their families.?

SJI has a long history of working on SNAP E&T at both the program and policy levels ? in-depth experience which led FNS to select the organization to head the COE through a competitive nationwide process. In recent years, SJI has partnered with the National Skills Coalition, with the support of the W.K. Kellogg and Annie E. Casey Foundations, to provide in-depth technical assistance to states on developing their SNAP E&T programs.

For more than a decade, SJI (supported largely by the City of Seattle?s Office of Economic Development) has also played an integral role helping to develop and expand Washington State?s successful SNAP E&T program, BFET. The success of BFET is a tribute to the combined efforts of dozens of actors in state and local government, community colleges and community-based organizations, as well as the innovative and collaborative leadership of Washington State?s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) in managing the program.

?Creativity, dependable follow-through, and a collaborative spirit among our friends and partners in Washington State were fundamental to creating such a robust program [in BFET], able to help thousands of adults access training to become competitive for sustainable wage careers,? SJI?s Executive Director, John Kim, said.

Key elements of the work of the SNAP E&T COE will include:

  • Providing direct and intensive technical assistance to 10 states to develop, improve and expand their SNAP E&T programs (in particular their 50/50 SNAP E&T programs).
  • Developing a suite of tools and resources for states to utilize to facilitate the development of their SNAP E&T programs.
  • Publishing a series of policy briefs that will serve to inform states and other stakeholders about innovations, policies and best practices that will further their SNAP E&T programs? success.
  • Developing a platform that allows FNS, states and other SNAP E&T stakeholders to communicate, share information, resources, challenges and successes, access relevant research and knowledge, and create networks.
  • Developing and running annual conferences, meetings and other learning opportunities for FNS, states and other SNAP E&T stakeholders.

For more on Seattle Jobs Initiative’s work with Washington’s Basic Food Employment & Training program, visit our online SNAP E&T/BFET Resource Center here.