Stimulus money creates jobs for youths
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act sent $19.9 million to Washington state to employ people ages 16 to 19 for seven weeks over the summer. There are 280 young adults in Skagit, Whatcom, San Juan and Island counties working minimum-wage jobs funded by the act.
Skagit Valley Herald
Six young men, ages 17 to 19, stood waist-deep in 50-degree water Thursday, catching, weighing and hauling chinook salmon from one water container to another.
Steve Stout, fish-hatchery specialist at the Marblemount Hatchery, stood on dry land tallying the size and weight of the fish while he shouted advice to the young men. He told them how to grab a tail and turn their wrists to keep a 14-pound salmon from getting away and to not hang the live fish by their tails when showing off their latest catch.
Stout loves working with young adults and regularly hires one or two in the summer. He said young adults need these job opportunities in rural areas like Concrete and Marblemount.
"They don't have many opportunities around here for job training," Stout said. "It's not like down in Seattle."
All six of the young men had been looking for summer work, and they said they were lucky in most cases if they actually received a phone call after they applied.
So when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act sent $19.9 million to Washington to employ people ages 16 to 19 for seven weeks over the summer, Stout was ready to take as many as the Skagit County WorkSource office could find for him.
Stout's six young men are among 280 young adults in Skagit, Whatcom, San Juan and Island counties working minimum-wage jobs funded by the act. The northwest part of the state received a little more than $1 million out of a pool of $19.9 million to place young adults in jobs at mostly public and nonprofit agencies.
The students are paid $8.55 per hour and employed by WorkSource. But they are supervised by individual agencies and companies on specific jobs and projects across the four-county region.
Brian Humphrey, administrator of WorkSource, said the stimulus funding does more than employ young adults for the summer. It gives work experience and references for young adults trying to jump into an extremely competitive labor market, and it allows public and nonprofit agencies to complete summer projects at a time when hiring new full-time workers would otherwise be impossible.
Humphrey said the program also gives an economic boost to the local economy.
"They aren't likely to save [their earnings]; they aren't likely to pay a bill," Humphrey said. "They're likely to spend it and put some money in the economy."
To qualify for the job, the young adults had to fill out an application, interview with WorkSource and meet income requirements. The program is limited to low-income or at-risk young adults.
Humphrey said employers and eager workers responded by the hundreds. WorkSource received more qualified job applicants than they had jobs and more work opportunities from local businesses and agencies than the funding could cover. For the 120 positions Humphrey is placing in the county, his office received 300 youth applicants and 280 business applicants.
Humphrey said he received more than 60 students each week at orientation sessions required to apply for the job.
About 120 of the 280 workers are in Skagit County, working for cities, YMCAs, Fish and Wildlife and even some private businesses that WorkSource designated as important to local recovery, mainly in construction and manufacturing.
Stout received six workers up at the Marblemount Hatchery to assist in this year's run, and he said his crew can also paint the building this summer. The city of Mount Vernon received two workers to continue to clean up downtown with its Main Street program through Washington Community Trade and Economic Development, which commits the city to cleaning, maintaining and revitalizing its historical downtown area.
Anthony Bryant, 19, originally from Stanwood, came to Mount Vernon earlier this year looking for work so he could finish his high-school diploma. Now he's cleaning up Mount Vernon's downtown area to support the maintenance and cleanup.
Maikai said Bryant has worked so well, he's allowing the teen to "mentor" other youths hired through WorkSource. Maikai said the two positions have really pushed the summer cleanup effort forward.
"We're probably about a month ahead of schedule on where we need to be," Maikai said. "I wouldn't be surprised if a few years from now, I see him as a full-time employee."
Bryant said it makes a huge difference working on beautifying a city over the summer rather than flipping burgers or bagging groceries. He said he gets constant compliments from nearby businesses.
"It's a lot different way to interact on the job than ordinary minimum-wage jobs," Bryant said.
The state Employment Security Department gave the individual WorkSource offices a lot of latitude to use the money. Humphrey's office was allowed to determine various private sectors or local projects that would receive funding and workers through the office even though they were not nonprofit or public entities.
The office also determined the pay scale. Humphrey decided to make every job minimum wage to create as many jobs as possible.
Humphrey placed some students in construction or manufacturing positions, and funded a barista training program placing homeless teens at coffee shops through a partnership with the Oasis Teen Shelter.
Oasis received funding to put five teens through a barista training program in Seattle, then placed the teens at seven-week stints at Common Grounds in Burlington; the Tattered Page, Skagit River Bakery and Calico Cupboard in Mount Vernon; and the Black Drop in Bellingham.
"It was the perfect program for this population," said Oasis Director Camille Danon. "You're doing job training for a cool, hip job. We had a lot of applications. It wasn't something we had to force them to do."
Humphrey and Danon had been talking about the program for months but seized the opportunity to start it up once the federal funding became available.
Humphrey said this year's work will lead the state to establish a permanent program employing low-income, at-risk teens and young adults.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case
NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(Courtesy of LeMay — America's Car Museum) New LeMay exhibit to look at NASCAR LeMay — America's Car Museum in Tacoma will look at the wil...
Post a comment