Employers get STEP up

Nicolas Sablan, STEP Coordinator addresses the group gathered for the “Employer Round- Up.”/Courier photo by Helen Smith

MONTE VISTA — Local employers got a taste of a new program on Thursday. The Colorado Works: Subsidized Training and Employment Program (CW STEP) held an “Employer Round-Up” at the Monte Villa Inn.

The CW STEP program is a work experience program that is designed to identify the needs of businesses and Colorado Works clients. It is also a process of strategically connecting the participant’s desired career with local business needs. The funding for this project is provided through a collaboration of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Colorado Department of Human Services. Rio Grande and Conejos Counties are the only rural areas that are currently participating in the initiative. However, success has been seen in the qualitative approach of the program.

There were approximately 70 in attendance at the program which included lunch provided by Sun Flour Cafe. Several speakers including STEP Coordinator Nicolas Sablan and Rio Grande County Public Health Director Emily Brown provided more insight as to what the program consists of. Sablan pointed out that STEP is subsidized employment that is intended to “meet the needs of the community.” He also pointed out that participants can often have a “new sense of purpose” when they have the opportunity to better themselves.

There are two components to the program: internships and on-the-job training. Internships are an opportunity for workers of all experience levels to participate in the workforce. The intern can also build relationships and a skill set.

Training is an opportunity for employers to select and train local talent and meet their staffing needs. There is also an incentive of reimbursement of up to 100 percent for businesses that hire and train new employees through the grant funding provided at the state level.

STEP is looking at the possibility of expanding to additional rural areas such as Alamosa and Mineral Counties. The hope is that the program will be a long-term benefit to the San Luis Valley economy and a tool for improvement for all who participate.