Can one-parent families be weaned off welfare and into the work force?

Utah officials hope to answer that question for the federal government over the next two years in a demonstration program that could become the forerunner of a national effort if it proves successful.Davis County will receive $500,000 to test the program in this area. Other areas included in the test are the Bear River Association of Governments, Salt Lake County and Wasatch County.

The Single Parent Economic Independence Demonstration is intended to use a combination of education and job training to help participants get off welfare and into the work force.

Eligible welfare recipients in the demonstration areas will be evaluated for job skills. Then efforts will be made to place these people in apprentice jobs. In these positions, they will receive training and experience that program officials hope will lead to more meaningful employment.

The hope is that as earning power increases, welfare payments can be reduced until the person is finally financially independent.

The program will work through local Private Industry Councils. Officials hope a joint venture between industry and social service agencies will benefit both groups. Unlike the situation in some training programs, employers

will not receive a subsidy from the government for offering employment.

Officials hope the program can solve the problem that prevents many welfare recipients from entering the work force: lack of job skills. During the apprenticeship, participants will have an opportunity to develop those skills in specific jobs, preparing them for employment in the regular work place.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is being credited with developing the plan and getting it funded. Grant money is for the first year only, but officials believe second-year funding will be forthcoming if first-year results are promising.

Officials also believe that success in Utah will lead to the program's adoption in other states. Such success would likely lead to the concept being included in proposed federal welfare reform legislation.