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By Jacque Ritchie



Jacque Ritchie

Wesley Hudson, Job Developer for the San Juan County area

Path to Work

By Jacque Ritchie, TALON

Wouldn't it be great to be able to hire a person for your small business, personally train them and have them go to work for you and - here's the kicker - you don't have to pay them? Sounds unlikely if not illegal, right? Au contraire mon frere; coming soon to San Juan County, courtesy of New Mexico Works (NMW) funded by NM Human Service Department, is the SL Start program. Wesley Hudson is the Job Developer assigned to San Juan County. His goal is to connect NM Companies, small businesses, and non-profits to participants that need education, job skills and work experience. "The program is beneficial to the individual, the employer and the community," said Hudson.

Originally from West Virginia, 28-year-old Hudson works out of Albuquerque and explains, "The participants in the program are drawn from people that receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits. This way they can learn a trade and gain work experience that will help them ultimately achieve self-sufficiency."

According to Hudson the program offers employers the opportunity to utilize part-time or full-time workers to assist in their businesses at no cost to the business. Before applicants are introduced to a prospective employer they (the applicant) must go through a rigorous screening process to help achieve an optimal applicant/employer fit. Hudson said that every TANF recipient is assigned to a Career Development Specialist. Together the participant and their CDS discover what skills sets and aptitudes the participant possess to help determine what field they are best suited for. Hudson explains prospective applicants receive educational tools such as interview readiness training and resume development, that help them develop necessary skills to attain employment. Employers are encouraged to interview prospective applicants and are never under obligation to accept any applicant. Employers may also terminate the participant at any time. Prospective employers must sign a Job Site Agreement that agrees to provide a safe and healthy work place, not to discriminate and to comply with applicable laws and regulations. If for some reason the agreement cannot be fulfilled it can be terminated at any time.

Employers are encouraged to hire participants at the conclusion of the three, six, or twelve month variations of the program, although they are under no obligation to do so. For instance, through the Career Link arm of the program participants can earn 20 hours a week (at minimum wage) and receive 20 hours a week of education for a period of six months. Employers who ultimately hire participants may receive tax credits for hiring TANF recipients. During the duration of the program, Job Developers and Career Development Specialists maintain contact with employers to address any issues or concerns that may arise.

Pamela Madden-Krall is the State Director of NM Works program. According to Madden-Krall the goal is to, "help participants identify and overcome barriers that may limit their re-entry into the work force. We work with participants to get past whatever obstacles they face, or have faced in order to move on and become successful." Madden-Krall said, "We all know how important work is to achieving a positive self-image, but unfortunately there is a residual stigma attached to hiring (TANF recipients)." Madden-Krall concedes, "Part of it stems from the historical perception of the character of people who are on what used to be called 'welfare'." Madden-Krall says that these people are sometimes thought to be lazy or just not particularly ambitious. Madden-Krall contends that this presumption is not true, "A big part of our job is to change that perception." Madden-Krall said, "The are so many reasons people find themselves in these circumstances - it could be a plant shut-down, or their job may have been out-sourced." Madden-Krall said that, "While we (NM Works) don't really consider ourselves an 'employment agency' per-se, I guess thats what we really are, getting people back-to-work is what we do." Madden-Krall said the goal of NM Works is to, "Create access to a better skilled and educated workforce."

If you are in need of full or part-time help at your business, company, or non-profit or if you are a journeyman craftsman who would like to take on an apprentice, contact Wesley Hudson at (304) 545-2947 or the NM Works administration line at (505) 417-2197 for more information. Or as of July 27, contact SLstartnm.com


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