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TMCNet:  Federal money put three times as many local young people to work

[August 16, 2009]

Federal money put three times as many local young people to work

Aug 16, 2009 (Beaver County Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Jeremee Vukich has spent his summer helping the maintenance staff at the Beaver County Women's Center.

"I'm learning a lot," said Vukich, 17, of Beaver, who said the job was going well. Before landing the job, he had previously worked at McDonald's and Burger King, he said. Fast food couldn't compare.

"We're doing a bunch of stuff. We cut the grass around here, build sidewalk with bricks. We make sure everything is updated." Thanks to federal stimulus money, which includes $1.2 billion for youth employment nationwide and $41.1 million in Pennsylvania, officials at Job Training for Beaver County say they were able to create more than 90 minimum-wage jobs for Vukich and other young people this summer.

Deb Newton, executive director, said because of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, curbs were painted in local municipalities or grass mowed at local parks, among other projects, at no cost to those communities.

"These kids are stimulus dollars at work," Newton said.

In fact, stimulus money paid for thousands of part-time jobs across the country, helping teens who were unable to land summer jobs at movie theaters or fast-food restaurants because of a bad economy and a highly competitive job environment. The national unemployment rate was 9.4 percent last month, same as June. But for teens, the rate was 23.8 percent.

"I know it's a difficult job market," Newton said.

In years past, she said about 100 young people typically spent the summer working under Job Training's summer program. That number almost tripled this year, Newton said.

And for Vukich, hard work paid off. The women's center asked that he stay an additional three weeks, so his work length was extended.

The Women's Center has also felt the effects of the recession, facing higher demand for counseling, shelter and other services, but a loss in some federal grant funding affected the center's budget.

"We don't have the extra money in our budget, so it was great for us to get the extra help," said Jill Marsillio-Colonna, director of the Women's Center.

Just about all the young people who completed an application were placed this summer, said Kate Scoff Hendrickson, Job Training's program manager.

More than 250 young workers either went into camps, such as construction or computer training, or to a work site. Computer training is geared for 14- to 15-year-olds, who have a chance to build a computer over the summer that they can then take home.

Working young people range from 16 to 24 years old this year, because of a change in guidelines that allowed Job Training to find work for 21- to 24-year-olds as well.

Special camps focusing on building, manufacturing and transportation trades gave young people experience in carpentry, plumbing and electrical work, graphic design and transportation logistics. Newton said young people also visited employers to see examples of potential jobs.

Regular work sites also exposed young people to "real-life work experiences" at schools, libraries or health-care centers, for example.

"This is a way of preparing them for the real world," Newton said. "These teens will have some work experience that they can cite to a prospective employer." Larissa Theodore can be reached online at ltheodore@timesonline.com.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act aims to save or create 3 million to 4 million jobs.

As part of the economic recovery package, $3.95 billion will be provided to localities for job training and employment services for dislocated workers, youth, and adults.

The package provides $1.2 billion for youth activities, $1.25 billion for dislocated workers, and $500 million for adult activities. The bill also provides $50 million for YouthBuild, $750 million for a new program of competitive grants for worker training and placement in high-growth and emerging industries, and $200 million for the dislocated workers assistance national reserve.

To see more of Beaver County Times, Pa., or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.timesonline.com. Copyright (c) 2009, Beaver County Times, Pa.

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