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The Minnesota Department of Human Services provides Minnesotans with a variety of services intended to help people live as independently as possible.

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In the Community: MFIP participants on FastTRAC to economic stability

DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, left, meets health care careers graduate Jeni Quiroz-Sanchez, right, Feb. 10, 2012, at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park. Quiroz-Sanchez is a client at HIRED, a jobs skills and employment training organization that provides case management for MFIP clients in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, and works collaboratively with FastTRAC.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services is taking part in a multi-agency career training initiative that could help more public assistance recipients achieve economic stability.

FastTRAC (Training, Resources and Credentialing) combines basic skills education with career-specific training to prepare undereducated Minnesotans for jobs in high-demand industries such as health care, manufacturing and education.

Guided by experts from DHS, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and philanthropic partners, it has expanded to 20 campuses and 34 different training paths since its inception in January 2010.

DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson observed a FastTRAC class Feb. 10, 2012, at Hennepin Technical College to learn more about how the program is serving participants in the state’s Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). MFIP provides temporary job counseling, financial assistance and nutrition assistance to low-income families with minor children, and to low-income pregnant women. Most parents receiving cash and food assistance through MFIP are low-wage workers who lost their job. Nearly 40 percent do not have a high school diploma.

A student who receives a certificate as a nursing assistant through FastTRAC can expect to earn, on average, nearly double what someone would at a minimum-wage medical job. Currently, 75 percent of all students who complete the FastTRAC program secure employment in their chosen career pathway.

DHS is now studying FastTRAC’s effectiveness for MFIP participants in a handful of health care programs at four community and technical colleges. Mark Toogood, director of the Transitions to Economic Stability Division at DHS and a member of the FastTRAC senior leadership team, said one objective of the pilot program is to assess the benefits of assigning “navigators” to MFIP participants enrolled in FastTRAC programs.

“We’re working with the United Way to study whether having a navigator, or single point of contact on the campus, contributes to retention and course completion for MFIP participants. Whether they are having problems with child care, or if the car breaks down, or if they’re having difficulty in school, MFIP participants turn to their assigned navigator. We think this single contact point will help participants complete the training and find employment,” Toogood said.


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