The Institute for Policy Outreach (IPO) at Virginia Tech is subcontracting with the five Departments of Social Services in the New River Valley, known collectively as the Partners for Self-Sufficiency (PSS), to develop and test a newly developed wage-advancement program.

The agencies received $665,000 from the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) as part of the Employment Advancements for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Participants Grant Program.

“This university-community outreach project is an excellent example of a strong partnership between local social-service agencies and all three higher education institutions in the New River Valley,” said Raquel Becerra, associate director of the Institute for Policy Outreach, “We will be using formative evaluation as a method for continuous improvement during the implementation process.”

The Employment Advancement for TANF Participants Grant Program is an initiative by the Commonwealth of Virginia to provide for better job placement, improved job retention, higher-centered employment wages, and increased wage gains and job advancement for TANF clients. With these exact goals, the funding will be used to operate the “Partnership for the Advancement of Competitive Employment—PACE Program” that will assist in addressing the unique needs of the rural hard-to-serve population in gaining, retaining, and advancing self-sufficient employment in the New River Valley.

The PACE Program offers a regional employment services model, which includes: an educational component, consisting of job-readiness preparation, GED services, and the availability of New River Community College course programs; an intensive, team-based vocational case management model for job development, placement, and retention services through an outreach contract with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy Outreach; and a component emphasizing employer involvement activities, such as employer-led internship programs, job fairs, and work with the regional Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM).

“For individuals experiencing multiple barriers to employment,” said Jim Wallis, director of Pulaski Department of Social Services, “moving to economic independence is quite challenging. The grant provides our agencies the funding to test new customer-services strategies as well as the resources to partner with Virginia Tech and Radford University to test, expand, and evaluate our new business strategies.”

In addition, PSS will partner with Radford University’s Waldron College of Health and Human Services to implement a newly developed MSW internship, which will substantially assist PACE program staff to work one-on-one with clients. The ultimate goal of this project is to expand and enhance existing service-delivery efforts to address more fully the needs of the TANF population prior to their entry into work and during employment.


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