Summit County Government

Posted on: November 10, 2015

Summit County Implements Employment Skills Program

Employment First logo

Employment First helps Food Assistance recipients gain work experience, references and job-seeking skills

Michael Whitaker, Summit County Social Services

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County Social Services is implementing the Colorado Employment First program, which helps prepare Food Assistance recipients for employment through job-seeking skills training, work experience and monthly job-search support activities.

“We’re really excited about launching this program in Summit County,” Summit County Economic Security Programs Supervisor Michael Whitaker said. “We believe these services are going to be extremely helpful to people trying to jump back into the job market, especially if they’ve been unemployed or underemployed for awhile.”

This federally funded program places participants in meaningful work environments to gain experience, confidence, references and increased potential to compete in today’s job market. Participants are matched with workplaces that align with their skills and interests. Eligible “workfare sites” must be government agencies or nonprofit organizations. Organizations currently participating include Summit County government, the Family and Intercultural Resource Center and the Rotary Community Dinner hosted every Tuesday in Silverthorne.

Summit County is seeking additional organizations that would like to serve as Employment First workfare sites. The program pays the worker’s wages, so there is no cost to the host organization. Participants typically spend 10 to 23 hours per month at their worksites. Employment First workfare positions are not permitted to replace or fill regular paid positions in the organization.

“By hosting an Employment First participant, you receive meaningful work, as well as the satisfaction of helping a person grow to his or her full potential,” Whitaker said. “For the community at large, the benefits include a more skilled, experienced pool of applicants in the workforce and a reduced reliance on public food assistance as participants become more self sufficient.”

Beginning this month, most local recipients of Food Assistance (known as SNAP at the federal level) between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to participate in Employment First. In addition to time spent in local workplaces, Employment First activities can include attending GED classes, job-search activities and attending classes at the Colorado Workforce Center.

“We’re working closely with the Workforce Center in Frisco to help people develop skills like interviewing and preparing a resume,” Summit County Employment First Coordinator Janet Wolfson said. “It can be overwhelming to re-enter the workforce, but this program ensures that people don’t have to start from scratch.”

Employment First recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and reaches about 30,000 Coloradans each year. The program is focused on geographic areas that have a healthy economy.

“Because of improving economic conditions, the state is requiring that Summit County begin participating in Employment First by January 2016,” Wolfson said. “But we decided to begin implementation right away, because we believe our participants stand to benefit tremendously from the program.”

For more information about Summit County Food Assistance, visit For more information about Colorado Employment First, visit


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