Shapiro Administration Highlights Work Training Program Helping Public Assistance Recipients, Stresses Need for Greater Supports for Voluntary Work Programs in Federal Farm Bill

Pittsburgh, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today visited the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (TIP), a vocational training institute that offers skills training for trades and employment supports to create pathways to high demand, family sustaining jobs for people who face barriers to employment. TIP partners with DHS to specifically serve people who receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), working as a SNAP 50/50 partner to help lower income Pennsylvanians find good-paying jobs and succeed in the workforce.

“PA DHS and programs like SNAP exist to help Pennsylvanians live with dignity and safety by ensuring they can meet their most essential needs, but this cannot be where our work stops. We must invest in our communities’ futures and are always looking for ways to help the people we serve take an economic step forward. Programs like SNAP 50/50 accomplish this without jeopardizing access to life-sustaining food,” said Arkoosh. “The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh shows that this is possible every day. As Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal Farm Bill, we must focus on supporting and strengthening interventions that create pathways out of poverty by easing benefits cliffs and supporting successful, sustainable models of voluntary employment that help people take a step forward.”

SNAP 50/50 sites are partnerships between community-based non-profit organizations, the United States Department of Agriculture, and PA DHS. Non-profit organizations leverage their funding with matched funds from the federal government to provide career-specific skills training for people receiving SNAP benefits. SNAP 50/50 program participants gain skills that help them get jobs and excel in career paths like skilled labor, culinary arts, hospitality, banking, and health care – in demand fields with good wages. The programs also help with job placement and job retention skills as well as social supports that can help people address employment challenges and be empowered to succeed in their new career.

SNAP 50/50 partnerships come at no cost to the Commonwealth and create great value by helping food assistance participants gain in-demand skills that can lead to a career path that helps them move off SNAP and other public assistance programs and achieve greater economic security. By helping participants gain skills and succeed in the workforce, SNAP 50/50 connects communities to skilled workers and supports the broader workforce infrastructure and economy.

The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh is a nonprofit trade training provider dedicated to providing opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment. These individuals may include those reentering society following incarceration, those chronically underemployed, those struggling with addiction, and others who need additional support to get their lives on track. During its eleven-week masonry and seven-week carpentry programs, students learn the fundamentals of construction labor skills and a strong work ethic. Life skills classes, financial literacy classes, and one-on-one counseling provide additional support to help individuals access and develop their talents. The outcome is employable, confident men and women who can immediately apply their construction training in large or small company settings. Over the last decade, TIP has engaged over 700 men and women throughout Allegheny County to meet a growing need for skilled tradespeople in the masonry and carpentry fields. TIP’s model is working: in 2022, TIP had a 98 percent job placement with an average starting wage of $19.40 an hour and a 0 percent recidivism rate. 

“The SNAP 50/50 Program serves as a critical bridge for our students; it enables them to get the training needed to advance their careers and to achieve a middle-class life for themselves and their families,” said TIP Executive Director Donta Green.

There are currently 27 SNAP 50/50 programs throughout Pennsylvania, offering an array of education and training opportunities. Learn more about SNAP 50/50 partnerships in PA here

SNAP is authorized federally through the Farm Bill, which is currently up for reauthorization. In addition to funding the anti-hunger program, the Farm Bill includes support for states to offer employment and training supports that can help SNAP recipients invest in their future by creating pathways out of poverty. As Congress debates this critical legislation, the Department of Human Services is urging our federal delegation to keep in mind the need for voluntary programs that mitigate barriers to employment and help people achieve good-paying, sustainable, and stable careers that help people support themselves and their families without public assistance. Additionally, Congress should allow states more flexibility to strengthen voluntary work training programs. Extending job retention supports, expanding access to ‘learn and earn’ paid training programs, and easing the transition off benefits programs can help states empower program participants so they can find and achieve sustainable, enriching employment.

September is Hunger Action Month, which recognizes the prevalence of food insecurity in Pennsylvania and nationally as well as the daily and long-term impacts of not having enough to eat. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs.

For more information on DHS’ employment and training programs and to apply for SNAP or other public assistance programs, visit


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