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USDA official praises Climb Wyoming

Blaine McCartney, Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Blaine McCartney, Wyoming Tribune Eagle

 

By Becky Orr
Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CHEYENNE – Kevin Concannon had heard great things about Climb Wyoming.

On Monday, he decided to find out for himself and visited the Cheyenne program’s office.

Concannon is the undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services for the United States Department of Agriculture. He met with Climb Wyoming founder Ray Fleming Dinneen and members of the local program’s staff.

“It’s one of the best programs in the country,” Concannon said of Climb Wyoming, a nonprofit statewide organization based in Cheyenne.

The program helps low-income single mothers out of poverty through career training and job placement. Women learn skills to help them and their children become financially independent.

Students receive instruction from Laramie County Community College in their career areas.

Staff members teach skills so women can navigate many aspects of their lives successfully.

Climb Wyoming has served 2,060 mothers since it started in 1986. It has served 3,387 children since 2004.

The program receives money from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Employment and Training Initiative.

“One of the major priority areas for the national SNAP, or food stamp, program is to promote more work and employment opportunities,” Concannon said. “We know it’s important for people to get the help when they need it, but we’re also deeply interested in saying what can we do to position families so that in the future they won’t need the program.”

One way to do that is to make sure people have access to employment and training, he added.

“(Climb Wyoming) has a particular reputation that’s been earned over many, many years for working with women who have children” and certain issues in their lives, he added.

He described Climb Wyoming as a “full-service approach to employment and training.”

Concannon supports its practice of following up on participants for 24 months after they successfully finish the program.

Results show that participants have moved to jobs that pay much more.

When they start in the program, they earn an average salary of $1,023 a month. But two years after they leave Climb Wyoming, they are earning $2,334 a month.

“It shows that it pays in a very tangible way for those households,” Concannon said.

Climb Wyoming provides four training programs a year, which last about 13 weeks each. Each class has about 10 or 11 students.

The program provides training in careers like construction and energy, health care, truck driving and office careers.

“We’re really wanting this to be an experience where they have success in getting through the training,” said Molly Kruger, Climb Wyoming’s Cheyenne program director.