For the past year and a half, the Catholic Labor Network has supported Music City Construction Careers (MC3), an Apprenticeship Readiness Program in Nashville that introduces participants to a career in the union building trades. Roughly a fourth of the participants have come from targeted outreach to Catholic parishes and Catholic social outreach ministries, such as Catholic Charities and local conferences of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
With encouragement from Jane Stenson, Senior Director of Poverty Reduction Strategies at Catholic Charities USA, CLN’s Nashville Representative, Aimee Shelide Mayer, began investigating ways for MC3 to partner with the SNAP Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) program. SNAP E&T supports recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with resources to meet work and training requirements that often accompany the benefit. Furthermore, SNAP E&T helps address other barriers to employment (beyond the actual skills training), such as transportation and child care, that might be preventing a dedicated and hard worker from successfully transitioning into a stable job or career.
When the national Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) conference originally scheduled for April 2020 in Nashville was postponed and then cancelled due to the pandemic, Shelide Mayer attended a virtual SNAP E&T forum in October 2020. She quickly got to work to submit paperwork in time for the November MC3 class, for which she had recruited a third of the participants. While not all of the MC3 participants are necessarily SNAP recipients, SNAP E&T provides financial reimbursement for administration, personnel, and participant costs proportionate to the number of SNAP E&T eligible members, and can greatly help Nashville’s MC3 program expand its staffing and participant support capacity.
Already in 2021, the connection to SNAP E&T and to its local intermediary, United Way of Greater Nashville, has opened doors to MC3 in Nashville, inviting referrals from county-based American Job Centers, the Metro Nashville Workforce Development Board, and other social-service organizations. Shelide Mayer and the MC3 coordinating team is excited for how this will be able to expand and deepen the resources and support they can provide to graduates as they transition into a stable career in construction.