Tribal Workforce Development Division and 477 Federal Program offers employment services

By Ardith Van Riper

     Two divisions within the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Labor offer employment services.  Those divisions are the Tribal Workforce Development (TWD) Division and the 477 Federal Program (477).   Both programs assist Ho-Chunk Nation enrolled members, tribal members of all federally recognized tribes, and direct descendants.

     The divisions have experienced a lull in clientele and travel the last year because of COVID.  However, now that communities are starting to open up, the divisions are planning to visit various areas to inform the Indigenous communities of their services. 

     “The mission of the TWD Division is to assist the Nation in recruitment and retention, success planning, training and development programs for tribal members,” explained Tribal Workforce Development Manager William Collins. 

     “The 477 program is a federally funded program.  We run under a three year contract and we are just starting a new one.  We only work within 39 counties in Wisconsin.  We do a lot of similar things that TWD does, except the client has to be enrolled in our program, be without a job for at least seven days, and if they want our services, they have to notify us before they accept a job.  We have a few different guidelines than the TWD does,” stated Federal Programs Director Lois Behrens.

     The 477 program provides a Limited Term LTT Program, Classroom Training Program, Supportive Services, and Youth Vocational Exploration Program. 

     The TWD Division assists Ho-Chunk Nation enrolled members and includes tribal members of all federally recognized tribes, or a spouse or parent of a dependent enrolled Ho-Chunk Nation tribal member.  Additionally, their service area covers the entire United States and is not exclusive to Wisconsin.

     The 477 program assists applicants who are members of a federally recognized tribe or must show proof they are a direct descendant.  Their service area covers 39 counties in Wisconsin that include Eau Claire, Fond du lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, La Crosse, Lafayette, Lincoln, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Monroe, Pierce, Pepin, Price, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Shawano, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Waushara, and Wood.

     “The TWD Division would be a great start for tribal members to engage in job searching and take full advantage of our networking not limited to other tribal programs or other tribal Nation programs but also the local job centers within each of the Wisconsin counties and the eleven workforce development boards and their workforce development agencies,” suggested Collins.

     The employment services can include job connections, in-house workshops, assistance with completing job applications and online applications, resume customization, mock interviews and interview preparation, and cover letter completion.  In addition, for those residing outside of Wisconsin, the TWD Division assists with linking applicants to a local workforce development agency in their field of work within their State.

     The supportive services that the 477 program offers include gas vouchers, assistance with purchasing uniforms, specialized shoes or boots, and tools (no power tools).  Other benefits are approved on a case-by-case basis.  Applicants must be enrolled in the 477 program before starting employment to receive these services.

     Similarly, the TWD Division’s supportive services include assistance with work attire, outdoor clothing, footwear, essential tools, and personal safety equipment.  Specialized tools, power tools, computers, and transportation are not included.  Transportation comprises gas, public transport such as city buses, trolleybuses, trams or light rail, passenger trains, rapid transit, taxis, and similar services such as Uber and Lyft.

     The 477 program also offers a classroom training program.  The program intends to provide classroom training to increase employability in a client’s field of interest.  The program assists with tuition and books for five or fewer credits, specialized training, certifications, and workshops.

     Along those same lines, the TWD Division offers financial assistance for training, education, and Continuing Education Units.  These funds can help pay for tuition, lodging, fees, and books.  Also, the program assists with reimbursement for certifications and licensures.

     “Assistance may be approved if the requestor has provided a well written statement regarding the benefits of attending,” explained William Collins.  “This statement is the basis for request approval.  The statement must be provided to obtain training or classes that are necessary to improve the employability or to help maintain employment or advancement of the requestor.  The statement helps to provide insight for a decision if the person is ineligible for funding through the Ho-Chunk Nation Higher Education Division or other tribal or State program or ineligible for Federal Student Aid.”

     One area that increased for the TWD Division during the pandemic was assistance with Unemployment questions, filing initial claims, and filing weekly claims.  They collaborated with the Ho-Chunk Nation Personnel Department Unemployment Insurance Specialist on this endeavor. 

     The TWD Division refers applicants to the 477 program for services they do not offer.  Two of those services are the LTT Program and the Youth Vocational Exploration Program.

     The LTT Program is to provide training experience in a work setting.  The 477 program pays for 240 hours with no overtime to a client.  The department providing the training has the option to hire the client as a limited term employee or permanent employee at the completion of the hours.  This program can only be offered once a year to a client.

     “Managers and clients are encouraged to contact us,” boosted Lois Behrens.  The 477 program welcomes managers from inside and outside the Ho-Chunk Nation searching for workers.

     The Youth Vocational Exploration Program primarily helps participants working towards their GED, HSED, or high school diploma.  The program pays up to 240 hours total per program year.  Potential worksites include the Ho-Chunk Nation, non-gaming positions, and non-profit organizations.  Immediate family members of the youth cannot be supervisors.

     “TWD is also responsible for compliance monitoring on behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Native American Hiring Provision (NAHP),” revealed Tribal Workforce Development Manager Collins.  “The Provision is a Standardized Special Provision which is part of a project contract that requires the contractor on a construction project to provide information about hiring and employment opportunities for members of a Federally Recognized Tribe in Wisconsin.  The NAHP applies when the project corridor is on, partially on, or directly adjacent to a reservation or land that maintains reservation status.  The provision also applies to projects off reservation if there is a tribally owned parcel held in trust directly adjacent to the right of way of the corridor of that project.”

     Contact the TWD Division at 715-284-5877 or email with questions.  William Collins, Julie Rodriguez, or Delores Krause will respond.

     Contact the 477 program at 715-284-5877 or email or, or