New Ivy Works education program can help Fort Wayne and Allen County residents break cycle of poverty

Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne Chancellor Jerrilee Mosier announces a new Ivy Works program that will provide short-term education for high-paying jobs for Allen County residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne Chancellor Jerrilee Mosier announces a new Ivy Works program that will provide short-term education for high-paying jobs for Allen County residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

A new pilot program offered through Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne hopes to help Allen County residents in poverty break out of that cycle by studying for jobs paying a livable wage.

The Ivy Works program will help 100 Allen County residents now receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to earn a certificate in one of a variety of high-demand careers fields, Ivy Tech-Fort Wayne Chancellor Jerrilee Mosier and Christopher Douse, the local campus’s director of student success and engagement, announced Monday.

“I think it gives them an opportunity to move from their current circumstance to a better circumstance,” Douse said.

To begin the enrollment process, interested adults now receiving SNAP can go to room 2101 in Harshman Hall on Ivy Tech’s north campus at 371 Dean Drive, Douse said. For information, contact Douse at 1-260-480-4229 or cdouse@ivytech.edu.

The applicant’s enrollment request will be submitted to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) for approval, Douse said. If approved, Ivy Tech staff will help the applicant through the school enrollment process.

Ivy Tech staff also will assess the person’s situation to see what other needs he or he has that could be obstacles to completing this education program, he said. Aid that Ivy Tech can provide includes on-campus child care, bus passes for transportation, a food bank and more.

Classes offered for SNAP recipients include certificate training these fields:

• Industrial technology welding certificate

• Commercial driver’s license/diesel truck certificate

• Machine tool technology certificate

• Home tech care certificate, which also can include certification in one of these areas: certified nursing assistant, meal preparation, dementia care, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid, blood-borne pathology and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

The jobs pay $18 to $19 per hour in wages and currently have a high demand for more workers, Mosier said.

Each of the programs can be completed within one year, Douse said. Classes begin in January, but they are in eight-week, 12-week or 16-week sessions, so students may be able to start classes in March or early summer and still earn a certificate by the time the pilot program ends Sept. 30.

Most students will have class two or three times a week, Douse said.

Ivy Tech also will help the students find jobs or arrange internships where they can get the experience needed to get a job, Mosier said.

The program has the potential to help a lot of people, she said.

As of October, about 16,225 households in Allen County received SNAP benefits, Mosier said. Those households contain more than 39,000 people.

“We hope to grow the program and have greater impact,” she said of the future. She hopes that includes expanding it throughout Ivy Tech-Fort Wayne’s 11-county service area in northeast Indiana.

Along with helping SNAP recipients break out of poverty, the new program also can reduce Allen County’s high infant mortality rate, said MaryClare Akers, manager of young adult programs at SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect).

There is a high correlation between infant mortality and both household financial instability and a lack of parenting skills, Akers said.

Many clients they now see at SCAN either work two minimum-wage jobs to try to support their families or work one job that doesn’t cover the household’s living expenses, she said. In many situations like those, people get more services and help for their family by going on the SNAP program rather than working a low-paying job.

“They do want to work, but they can’t work for less than it takes to run their household,” Akers said.

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