Strategies for Success, offered by WorkSource and state agencies, will teach valuable life skills in a six-week course to help those below the poverty line, the homeless, returning veterans and the long-term jobless.

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It’s popular at this time of year for many people – including job seekers – to consider the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. As hard as it may be for the average person to find satisfying work, imagine how exponentially worse the task would be if you didn’t know where your next meal was coming, didn’t speak the language or had no roof over your head. For those living in such dire circumstances, a job can seem like an impossible dream.

A program being offered through Washington WorkSource, however, is trying to change all that. The new three-year pilot project, called Strategies for Success, aims to ease the transition from poverty to self-sufficiency through a series of classes that teach important life skills. Offered in King, Pierce, Spokane and Yakima counties, the program is targeted at such at-risk populations as the homeless, those new to the English language, the long-term unemployed, veterans returning to civilian life and non-custodial parents.

The program is more intensive that what WorkSource offers for regular job seekers. Those who enroll in Strategies for Success must attend classes for at least 16 hours a week over a period of six weeks, for a total of 96 hours of instruction. Under the course’s guidelines, most of the classes will be with live instructors; no more than 30 percent of the class hours can involve online instruction or homework-based activities.

Skills that will be discussed in the coursework include balancing work and life, managing stress, enhancing communication, building self-esteem, balancing a budget, promoting health, choosing appropriate work attire, resolving conflicts, adopting good work habits and teambuilding.

According to WorkSource, the program, which launched this fall, could help about 3,500 low-income people across Washington state dramatically improve their chances of stabilizing their lives with steady employment. “These classes have never been offered through WorkSource, and we’re excited to help financially strapped individuals on their path to securing jobs they need to support themselves and their families,” said Dale Peinecke, commissioner of the state’s Employment Security Department.

Strategies for Success is offered as a component of the Resources to Initiate Successful Employment (RISE) program, which is administered by the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and funded through a $22 million federal grant. RISE also offers case management services and work-based learning to food assistance recipients.

Most important, the Strategies for Success classes are also designed to give participants the opportunity to engage directly with certain employers and colleges. DSHS contracts with community and technical colleges and community-based organizations to provide referrals for qualified individuals to WorkSource. Also, the state’s Workforce Development Councils have developed employer relationships with various RISE participants to offer mentoring services, job-shadowing activities, on-the-job training programs and, in some cases, internships.

For more information on the program, or if you want to volunteer to help, please visit the DSHS Strategies for Success page.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at