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Stimulus Money Creates 4,500 Summer Jobs

JOSH KOVNER

June 01, 2009

The odds just improved that kids dealing with poverty and other issues will land meaningful jobs this summer.

The state will parlay $11 million in federal funds into summer jobs for 4,500 young people aged 14 to 24 throughout Connecticut one of the few stimulus programs that is a wellspring of new jobs.

A similar version of the program operated for the past two years with state money, but those funds have dried up.

Much of the $3 billion in economic stimulus money coming into Connecticut is serving to shore up state and local budgets, avoid layoffs and keep companies working by accelerating state transportation projects that were long planned but lacked funding. Among the notable exceptions are a weatherization program, where a boost in funding from $2.5 million annually to $65 million will create new jobs in the energy conservation field, and the summer-jobs program.

The jobs are for kids from families hovering near the federal poverty level, and who have a barrier to employment, such as a physical disability or living in foster care. Being a first-generation college student would also qualify a young person for the jobs, if the income criteria are met.

They'll earn minimum wage and work 16 to 24 hours a week, said Sandra Rodriguez of Capital Workforce Partners. The state's five regional workforce development boards will run the program, with oversight from the state Department of Labor.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell called summer jobs "a precious commodity" in this economy. She said that she wants the program up and running before school ends in a few weeks.

One of the goals, beside providing kids with a paycheck, is to help point them toward a permanent job.

For one day each week, the young people will learn the details behind the jobs they are doing. If they're harvesting food, for instance, they'll learn about growing the food, running a farm, marketing and dealing with the public.

"They'll learn about the occupation, about what it takes. It's called career competency training, and it comes with every one of the jobs we provide," said Rodriguez.

She added that the regional workforce boards are lining up job sites, with an eye toward finding green jobs.

The young people will work for a mix of public programs, private employers, and nonprofit groups, including YMCAs and YWCAs, municipal sites, state college campuses, hospitals and banks.

"Many [of the jobs] focus on capitalizing on young people's computer skills computer work, technology, project management, customer service and general office support," Rodriguez said.

She said if the state kicks in money and the five workforce boards are able to raise funds, then additional jobs would be offered.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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