Youth target of summer jobs program

Posted June 24, 2009, at 10:22 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Young Mainers looking for a summer job should visit their local Department of Labor CareerCenter to apply for the nearly 1,000 jobs available statewide because of the federal Recovery Act.

“We have $4 million in Recovery Act money over two years for this program,” said Laura Fortman, commissioner of Labor. “We are really trying hard to get most of the money out there this summer and provide some summer jobs for young Mainers. There is certainly a need out there.”

The program provides a wide variety of mostly entry-level jobs at government agencies, nonprofits, small businesses, law firms, museums and retail organizations. It has openings for 14- to 25-year-olds but is not open to all.

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“Unfortunately, this is not an opportunity for every young person,” Fortman said. “There are targeted groups and income eligibility requirements.”

The federal law targets low-income youth and those with a “significant barrier” such as a disability. High school drop-outs and those enrolled in adult education programs are also targeted under the program.

“We are not just providing a job with this program, we also will provide some basic skills training and safety in the workplace,” Fortman said.

The program is being operated through local agencies such as the Tri-County Workforce Investment Board that serves Piscataquis, Penobscot and Hancock counties, and Goodwill Industries of Northern New England that serves York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties.

“There are still jobs being worked out and we are encouraging young people to contact their local CareerCenter for specific information on jobs in their area and how to apply,” Fortman said.

She said pay varies with the job and the local agreements and in many cases agreements will not be finished for a couple of weeks. For example, in the Tri-County program, the pay is $7.25 an hour for about 30 hours a week.

“One hundred of these young people will be in the Governor’s Young Mainer Weatherization Corps,” Fortman said. “This is an opportunity to develop some of those green job skills that we know are the wave of the future.”

Those jobs are through the regional CAP agencies that operate the weatherization programs. The youth hired for those jobs will get training on how to do basic weatherizing of homes as part of their summer job.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the principal purposes of the Recovery Act were both to preserve jobs and create new ones. She said the summer jobs program not only provides employment, it also helps provide skills for the future.

“The Summer Youth Employment Program is an important program that teaches our young people valuable professional skills,” she said. “The program will help young people in Maine gain meaningful, on-the-job experience this summer while also helping businesses who need the labor.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, of the state’s 2nd District, said including the funding to help youth find a summer job in the current recession was an important part of the Recovery Act and should help stimulate the economy to recover.

“During this economic downturn, funding like this is crucial to keeping young Mainers employed this summer,” he said. “These employment opportunities also benefit our small businesses in Maine by hiring young Mainers at little cost to the business.”

Michaud agreed with Collins that helping youth gain basic job skills will help them in future work and will help many go to college or further their education.

Fortman said some of the local groups are seeking to expand the program to provide both job and training opportunities to 18- to 24-year-olds. She said as the state seeks to develop a work force with the skills needed for the 21st century that age group is a target of other training funds.

“This may be a great opportunity for those people to reconnect and get some skill development in addition to some income and hopefully have an opportunity to turn things around,” she said.

On the Web: www.mainecareercenter.com

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