TAP’s SwiftStart tackles two issues at once

tapA new TAP (Total Action for Progress) program supported by a four year, four million dollar federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor aims to take care of two problems at once while giving some people a leg up.

“SwiftStart” will help pay for quality child care over the short term while parents earn credentials through various training programs that can help them land a good job – the type of job that will make it easier for them to pay for childcare.

TAP is currently taking applications for SwiftStart before the program kicks off next month. It will focus on offering career pathways in healthcare, advanced manufacturing and information technology.

There is also career coaching, job placement assistance and ongoing support from career mentors and other participants. Those in-demand credentials will be obtained via training programs that will last from 2 to 18 months. Many will last around 9 months or so.

“As most parents know the cost of child care can be a barrier to employment [and] training to advance your employment,” says project director David Moore, “what SwiftStart does is try to marry those two issues.” In part by helping to pay for quality child care while parents or guardians get job training.

A partnership with Head Start will help there; about two thirds of SwiftStart participants are expected to be connected to that program or are Head Start eligible, according to Moore. TAP will support that with additional funds if training is needed at night or on weekends when a Head Start classroom is not available – or for a sibling who needs looking after that is not currently in the Head Start program.

The credentials earned will “open up the doors for middle to high-skilled positions.” That might mean, adds Moore, helping someone who is a certified nursing assistant to aim higher- perhaps as a pharmacy or radiology technician.

It’s a trap sometimes, says Moore; entry-level jobs often don’t pay enough to allow for child care, so it’s a disincentive to finding work or seeking more skills to land a better job. “You get caught in the Catch-22 … we hope to move [participants] up to a more self-sufficient career track. We can’t get them all the way there but we can get them a few rungs up on that career ladder, where they really have a chance to keep advancing.”

A better job might also mean that parents can pay for better child care with an educational aspect – thereby giving children a leg up as well, especially in preschool.

 “There are still too many unemployed and underemployed people,” says Moore. “There are also opportunities out there that employers can’t fill.” For those eligible that is where SwiftStart may be able to assist. By helping to pay for child care while parents and guardians get training, Moore says the program “will help bridge that gap.”

Partners in the SwiftStart initiative include the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board, Virginia Tech, local employers and training providers. There are eligibility requirements for the program as well; parents or guardians must have legal custody of at least one dependent 13 years old or younger, for example. For more information contact Charysse Hairston at 892-7438 or at charysse.hairston@tapintohope.org.

By Gene Marrano