Under the one-year, $784,000 contract that went into effect July 1 the state agency will refer all TCA applicants to the program, designed to give them skills and support to find an entry-level job, he said.
An average of 100 people have applied each month for the past three months, Engle said.
The partnership has the potential of saving the agency $4,300 in annual benefits, not including food stamps and medical assistance, for the average employed applicant with two children, he said.
The first group of about 12 people went through orientation last week, said HJC staffer Jim Cannon, who worked with Robin Spaid to develop the program.
The program - based out of HJC's Technical Innovation Center or "business incubator" - has a two-fold purpose, Cannon said.
Participants will be instructed in the basics of finding a job, like putting together a resume, networking and interviewing, he said.
Meanwhile, college staff will help them find solutions to personal barriers, such as transportation and child care, Cannon said.
During their month on campus, they'll be offered a menu of basic skills training in things like customer service sales techniques, telephone etiquette and computers, he said.
The program reflects a dramatic shift in philosophy that came with federal and state welfare reform legislation passed last year, Engle said.
The philosophy used to be "train and place," with each applicant's training and educational needs assessed and met before they were required to find jobs, he said.
Now the emphasis is on getting welfare recipients entry-level jobs, seen as stepping stones to better jobs, with less emphasis on education and remedial training, Engle said.
To support that philosophy, the law restricts a person's welfare benefits to a total of 60 months and requires that a recipient be employed within two years of starting benefits to continue to receive subsidies, he said.
After helping a social services client find a job, HJC will be poised to help them develop the skills to either move ahead in that field or train for another, Engle said.