Walker: New Job Search and Training Requirements for FoodShare Program a Success

FoodShare Employment and Training program provides the unemployed with the skills training and the hands-on experience needed to find a job

April 20, 2016 | MacIver News Service

[Madison, Wis…] Gov. Scott Walker held a press conference today at the JCPenney customer care center in Wauwatosa to highlight the success of new work search and job training requirements in Wisconsin’s FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program. In the first year of implementation of the new work and training requirements, almost 12,000 FoodShare participants have found jobs.

“We have a requirement in the state of Wisconsin now that if folks who are adults, without children in the household, who are physically and mentally capable of working, who want to get assistance from the state, we will provide that,” said Gov. Walker. “In turn, we have an expectation that individuals are either going to be looking for work, working, or enrolled in one of our job training programs…the reason we do that is because we believe in people.”

The new guidelines, which began on April 1, 2015, require able-bodied individuals, aged 18 to 49, with no children living in their home, to:

  • Work at least 80 hours per month, OR
  • Participate in a state-approved work program such as FSET for at least 80 hours per month, OR
  • Work and participate in a work program for a combined 80 hours of work per month.

Gov. Walker has invested $60 million over the last two budgets to implement these new requirements and provide FoodShare participants with additional services to help in their search for a new job. Individuals who choose not to meet the work requirements are allowed three months of FoodShare benefits in a 36-month period. If they do not meet the new requirements, they will no longer be allowed to receive benefits. Over 42,000 individuals have refused to comply with the new requirements and are no longer eligible to receive FoodShare assistance.

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Now that the work requirements have been in place for one year, Gov. Walker’s office is taking the opportunity to travel the state and share positive experiences of FoodShare members who have worked with the program.

“I submitted an application to St. Luke’s Medical Center for full time employment. St. Luke’s Medical Center called me the next day and conducted a phone interview and then they called me to do a face to face interview the next day. When I got to the interview, I used the techniques that I was taught in Road Maps to Success to really WOW the manager and was offered the job right on the spot. The moral of this story is to never give up on what you want to do! I got the job as a Health Unit Coordinator working in the Emergency Room, right where I wanted to end up. I just wanted to thank the FSET program for the knowledge that I have learned along the way.”

— FSET Participant, Region 2 (ResCare) (Wisconsin Department of Health Services, “FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) Program Comprehensive Report,” 4/20/16)

The FSET program works with local agencies to help schedule an enrollment and orientation appointment. At orientation, participants learn detailed program information including the scope of services to help people who lack job experience. Such services include assisting a person with applications and creating resumes, motivation and information workshops, and learning and practicing interviewing skills by going through a mock interview.

Knowing that experience and education are both important if a person is to find and succeed at a job, the FSET programs offer numerous educational activities. For those who want more education, FSET offers Adult Basic Education classes and a High School Equivalency Program. Some training certification and post-secondary education is also available. Vocational training is another option for people, with a wide range of choices including:

  • Certified nursing assistant (CNA) training
  • ServSafe licensing
  • Commercial driver license (CDL) training
  • Customer service training
  • Pharmacy tech training
  • Welding training
  • Medical coding training
  • Automotive technician training
  • Radiography training

If the person the agency is working with doesn’t have a firm grasp of the English language, agencies are equipped with translators and English as a Second Language classes.

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The FSET program also provides vocational training, which allows participants to train at a skill or trade, directly improving their employability in an in-demand field.

When a person moves from government dependence to independence, Gov. Walker said there are three winners. “First of, certainly the taxpayer, because anytime someone like that who was previously on assistance no longer needs that level of assistance, that’s a help to the taxpayers and resources that can be spent on others who do have dramatic needs in our state and communities. “Secondly, it’s a big win for employers…who are having a hard time finding good quality people to fill the positions they have vacant…The third winners are individuals.”

The new work search and job training requirements have been criticized by some on the left, with one group going so far as to compare the situation to slavery. While the critics of the new policy are quick to point out that 40,000 individuals no longer receive FoodShare benefits, they conveniently skim over the host of exemptions that exist to ensure that the requirements only apply to able-bodied adults. Exemptions from the work requirements are extensive and include people who are:

  • Living with a child under age 18 who is part of the same FoodShare household.
  • The primary caregiver for a person who cannot care for himself or herself.
  • The primary caregiver for a dependent child under age 6.
  • Physically or mentally unable to work.
  • Chronically homeless
  • Pregnant
  • Receiving, or has applied for, unemployment insurance
  • Taking part in an alcohol or other drug abuse (AODA) treatment program
  • Enrolled in an institution of higher learning at least half-time
  • A high school student aged 18 or older, attending high school at least half-time

A copy of the Department of Health Services’ FSET program report can be found here.