Midstate group partners with Houston schools to put students to work

Midstate group partners with Houston schools to put more students to work

jmink@macon.comJune 17, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Lisa McIntosh spends her days putting teenagers and young adults to work.

As youth career facilitator for the Middle Georgia Work Investment Board, McIntosh watches children as young as 14 learn how to get and keep jobs. The Warner Robins-based agency partners with employers across a 10-county region, placing youths in jobs and paying their wages through federal funding. Students must be from low-income households to qualify.

“They’re getting some work experience and money in their pockets,” McIntosh said. Workers are paid $7.25 an hour through the program.

The organization partners with some regional school districts to help identify students for the program and, in turn, pay some of those students to perform work within the school system. Its newest partner is the Houston County school district, which will work with the organization during the upcoming school year. The organization also partners with Twiggs and Wilkinson counties and is working on an agreement with Peach County, officials said.

High school students in Houston already can gain work experience through the district’s work-based learning program. The Middle Georgia Work Investment Board will give those students more job opportunities and will allow more students to perform paid work within the school system.

Students often perform work around schools, particularly in the front office, but a weak economy has made it difficult to pay those students. For example, Centerville Elementary School used to employ a high school student to work in the front office, make copies and run errands. The extra help was a boost for the school, but that position was axed when funding dwindled, said Cindy Flesher, assistant superintendent for school operations.

With the help of the Middle Georgia Work Investment Board, more students might be placed in jobs at the schools, she said. Other students will be placed in outside jobs.

“It’s a win-win,” Flesher said. “It’s an opportunity for us to help them find candidates for their service, and it helps us.”

The economy also has impacted the work investment board, which relies on federal dollars and has endured budget cuts. This summer, it has 70 employment slots for youths across the region. In the past, the program would employ up to 250 young workers during the summer, said Carolyn Robertson, youth services specialist for the Middle Georgia Work Investment Board.

Still, the organization continues to educate and place young people in paid jobs. Officials are not yet sure how many Houston County students will be placed in jobs through the program, but the organization is planning to work with those students until they get a high school diploma.

The organization works with people ages 14 to 21. They mentor participants, offering workshops that focus on skills from resume writing to interviewing to dressing for work.

When they become high school juniors, participants are placed in jobs -- preferably jobs that match their career goals. For example, if a student wants to pursue early childhood education, the board will try to place him or her at a day care center, McIntosh said.

The board is asking more employers to step up and partner with them.

“If we don’t have work sites in that particular community, it’s hard to put kids to work,” McIntosh said. “These are people growing up in your community. You want to try to develop them into productive young adults.”

For more information, call 953-4771.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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