In August the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $70.8 million to 166 tribal nations in the form of grants. Among the recipients, was the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which was awarded $87,995 for adult programs and $52,630 for youth employment.
According to a U.S. Dept. of Labor press release, the funding is to, “Help provide employment and training services to low-income and unemployed Native American adults and youth.” The goal is to create opportunities for individuals to reach positions of their interest.
“We get funds directly from the DOL and other grant funds and the Administration for Children & Families,” said Crystal Banuelos, SRPMIC Assistant Director of Human Resources. She said the funds go towards the Workforce Innovation& Opportunity Act program the Community provides for its members.
“What the WIOA programs serves, is to help Community members to reach their employment goal. We help them along their path to become, let’s say a medical assistant, for example,” said Banuelos.
The WIOA program helps place individuals, who are pursuing a vocational or specialized field, including opportunities for the youth. Banuelos said for the youth, they are given opportunities to gain experience, while they are in school, even as they finish high school.
“We can help with [those] individuals that are looking to go back into school, like post secondary education or like a vocational school, with the cost that goes into various support services for that Community member,” said James Smith, SRPMIC Manager of Human Resources Apprenticeship Program.
“For the youth, we work with them, provide them with virtual training as well so they continue to stay focused on their involvement in the program and prepare them for work readiness,” said Banuelos. Smith said the important part is for them to stay active in school and get good grades. Smith also said the WIOA program offers different types of workshops, so they stay engaged.
“Some of the youth come in with certain barriers when it comes to income, so help them with stipend,” said Banuelos. Smith added, the same opportunity is afforded to adult students, regardless of their status of either full-time or part-time, they will receive a stipend for being in class with an instructor.
Based on an Community members eligibility, they create opportunities for them to meet the requirements, if it’s income, disability and other even parenting, which some participants split their time between school and home life.
She said at times, during the course of their studies, a student may need to pay for tuition and school supplies and the Community will help them with those needs. Banuelos said that if it requires car repairs, because it is their only means of transportation, the Community will assist them to ease that burden.
Smith added, that the WIOA funding (in some cases tribal funding) will help with things such as testing fees are eligible for program participants, such as certifications for a state licensing fees. “We try to take that barrier off of them, so they need not worry about some of the costs, we can assist we can with the costs,” said Smith.
Banuelos said for a Community who wants to become a medical assistant and is a participant in the WIOA program, they will work with the River People Health Center to line up an opportunity for them.
“Most departments are receptive of our participants, because it is extra help, even if they are in a trainee role, its good for them to get a real world experience in the field they want to eventually be in,” she said.
Smith said for Community members who want to take their learning experience into college, they can connect them with a representative at higher education and they can still be a participant of the WIOA program at the same time.
Banuelos and Smith both encouraged Community members to stop by the WIOA program and reach out to them if they are interested in pursuing their career goals. “95 percent of the time people will drop in and that is fine, we are happy to help them with their goals,” said Smith.