Strong Roots, Ever Evolving

The Center for Work Education and Employment was modeled after an early women’s empowerment and anti-poverty program.  Since then, CWEE has pioneered  a more effective way of helping struggling families through a comprehensive model of skills training, supportive services and employer engagement.

The History of CWEE

The Center for Work Education and Employment (CWEE) was modeled after National Women’s Employment and Education (NWEE), an early women’s empowerment and anti-poverty program that promoted a comprehensive model of skills training, supportive services and employer engagement.

NWEE was born of a grassroots movement inspired by both the Chicano Rights Movement of the 1960s and second-wave feminism of the 1970s. A group of women in San Antonio, Texas, fed up with the antiquated welfare system, demonstrated to demand job training and a leg up – rather than just a government handout.

NWEE’s success helping low-income women transition off welfare into self-supporting employment made it an early model for workforce development and poverty reduction.
CWEE opened its doors in 1982 as the Colorado Women’s Employment and Education program, becoming the first organization in the state dedicated to supporting single mothers in the transition from public assistance to self-supporting employment.

CWEE was founded with private investments from foundations and companies who supported our belief that Metro Denver communities are stronger, safer and more sustainable when we come together and provide support for the most vulnerable families. As CWEE’s program developed, the organization’s early leaders recognized that by partnering with government and established public support programs, like welfare, CWEE could have the greatest impact on the lives of disadvantaged workers and their families.

Welfare reform in 1996 was a pivotal moment in CWEE’s development. By now, CWEE already had a strong track record delivering skills training and employment services to low-income single women on government assistance.

The new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which was established in 1935 and functioned essentially as a widow benefits program.

TANF gave each state broad powers in how counties implemented the program. CWEE worked in partnership with human services administrators in Denver Metro counties as they created programs to meet the new federal requirements.

Over the past four decades, CWEE has helped pioneer a new, more effective model for the management of public benefits. We contract directly with counties to provide all case management, provision of supportive services, skills training, and employment services for individuals receiving public welfare benefits. These contractual agreements that name CWEE as the “case manager of record” continue to the present day Denver Metro counties.