At Cherokee Nation, we are putting the federal CARES Act dollars to work for our citizens and our communities. To that end, we have committed more than $7 million to our Career Services Department. This will keep our existing programs at full strength and expand new programs to help citizens living on our reservation who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The Cherokee people want to work, but it can be a challenge during the worst public health crisis in generations. The expanded programs are providing essential support, training and education to help Cherokee families weather the economic impact of the pandemic.

Well before the pandemic, Cherokee Nation was strategically investing in career training. Our earlier work has enabled us to rapidly pivot to also support the COVID-19 response. Our team has been incredibly diligent in this unprecedented and ever-changing time.

With the infusion of $7 million, we are expanding our GED program to offer online instruction for tribal citizens seeking a high school diploma. We are also expanding our summer youth employment program and extending the completion date through December, because so many teens were unable to work summer months due to COVID-19. With the program extension, high school and college students will have more opportunity to earn income while in school.

We have increased funding to our tribal training program, formerly known as “Day Work.” Participants of the program receive payment to help with emergency necessities such as gasoline, groceries and utility bills.

To help fill the growing demand for remote health positions, we are increasing our focus on areas such as telemedicine and health IT technicians.

Additionally, we have expanded tuition assistance by $1 million for tribal citizens who are interested in classes via a Career Tech center. These programs are available for a wide range of career fields, including many tracks that can be completed by the end of the year, such as construction, truck driving, welding and health care. We will also have a technology enhancement grant available for many of these career trade students.

Finally, our work experience program, which gives citizens a chance to get on-the-job training and transition into full employment with Cherokee Nation, its entities and partners, will get a financial boost.

These expanded opportunities will now help more Cherokees gain employment during this difficult time. They will also improve the economic health of our whole region. Recovering the economy is essential for protecting our communities and our mental and physical health.

With so much uncertainty around how long it will take the economy to fully return to pre-COVID-19 levels, Oklahoma’s tribal and state leaders must provide relief and a direction forward. By investing in our workforce, we help our citizens develop the skills needed for the future. This moment is extremely difficult, but it can also be an opportunity to jump-start a long-term career.

If you are a Cherokee looking for new career opportunities during this critical time, I encourage you to contact the Career Services department at 918-453-5555 to learn more about the right program for you.

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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