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PUT IN FINANCIAL BOX FOR JOB MARKET. TNKS. : Skill-Training Project Targets Aid Recipients

October 26, 1986|C. A. WEDLAN | C.A. Wedlan is an assistant on The Times' Business desk. and

If you're unemployed and have been receiving certain forms of public assistance, you're about to become the target of a new state program geared to teaching people new skills and getting them back to work.

Under the Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program, able-bodied welfare recipients, except those with children under age 6, will be required to enroll in workshops at area schools and other locations to learn job skills and get help in seeking employment.

GAIN is designed to offer new opportunities for parents--primarily single mothers--who have been out of the job force because of family obligations. The program will initially concentrate on those receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and will eventually include other welfare recipients, including eligible refugees and possibly those on general relief.

Initial enrollment is due to be under way by September, 1988, and all qualified AFDC caseloads must be enrolled by 1990.

Los Angeles County is laying the groundwork for the GAIN program, including researching labor needs and surveying employer attitudes about hiring welfare recipients. It is also looking into child-care availability around the county.

While other states have adopted various forms of "workfare," GAIN is one of the most ambitious programs ever undertaken to reroute welfare recipients into the labor market while providing extensive preparation to get them there.

"There's a general feeling that if we can make it work in Los Angeles, it can work almost any place in the country," said Sandra Semtner, chief of the GAIN division of the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services.

Individuals will be evaluated for education level, personal interests and general aptitude. Based on that evaluation, a sufficiently skilled participant may be placed directly in a job. If he or she needs additional training before employment, varying levels of help will be provided, including English as a second language, or help on resume preparation and job interview techniques. GAIN participants will continue to receive financial assistance and will be reimbursed for child care and transportation.

The idea is to develop realistic expectations on behalf of the participants, link them to labor needs and come up with a job that has a future, Semtner said.

And if, after all channels have been explored, GAIN's efforts fail to lead to a job, a client will be required to do a year's worth of community service.

"I know that everybody's been told there's no such thing as a perpetual-motion machine, but the state Legislature created one," Semtner said. "After all that (procedure), if the client is still unemployed, we'll send him back to assessment again and try again." The client will go through the entire GAIN procedure from Square One.

GAIN also carries some financial clout. Semtner said that federally required sanctions will be imposed if a participant fails to comply and cooperate with all of GAIN's efforts. The sanctions may range from reduction in welfare benefits to ineligibility for public assistance.

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