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Stimulus funds doubling youth summer work program

WARNER ROBINS — Among the first people to benefit from the stimulus package across Middle Georgia may be young people from low-income families who are searching for summer work.

The state’s budget for the Summer Training and Employment Program – Unlimited Potential (STEP UP) is being doubled to $26,657,415 with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The target is to find summer jobs for 10,253 young people, ages 14-24, across the state. The normal top age is 21, but it was expanded to 24 with the additional stimulus funding this year.

“This will be a tremendous help to us and opportunity for the young people we serve,” said Don McRae, executive director of the Middle Georgia Consortium, one of 20 agencies across the state that administer the youth program.

“Our budget is doubling to $773,713, so we’ll be able to hire 298 young people, twice the number we usually help,” he said.

The Middle Georgia Consortium serves 10 Middle Georgia counties: Houston, Peach, Crawford, Monroe, Jones, Putnam, Baldwin, Twiggs, Wilkinson and Pulaski.

In Bibb County, the program is administered by the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. Its budget for the summer youth jobs program is also being doubled to $633,718.

“Our target is to find jobs for 600 to 650 young people,” said Shermesa Saffold, a youth career counselor in the office.

To qualify for the program, applicants must be from low-income families. The amount of a family’s annual income for qualifying applicants is on a sliding scale based on family size — ranging from $10,830 for single-person families to $37,010 for eight-member families.

The jobs are with public and private nonprofit organizations.

“We have clerical jobs, maintenance jobs and a lot of jobs working with children in the recreation departments,” said George Hopkins, a career facilitator with the Middle Georgia Consortium who oversees its youth program.

“We pay the workers minimum wage, which is $6.55 now but will go up to $7.25 on July 24, so that has been factored into our budgets for this year,” McRae said.

McRae and Hopkins said many of the jobs in their program are 40-hour-a-week summer jobs, but some are part time. Saffold said many of the jobs available in Macon are part time, so her program can spread them around to more workers.

“We’re working now to line up employers for the extra young people we can hire this year,” Hopkins said. “We begin our program May 1, so we’re still recruiting employers and taking applications from young people wanting to work.”

Saffold said the program in Macon is for six weeks, from June 15 to July 24.

The program began in 2000 as part of the national Workforce Investment Act.

“The idea is to help encourage young people to get into the proper training for future careers,” McRae said. “It’s all about giving them some work experience at a young age and show them what is required of them. We interview them and try to find their interests and try to match them to summer jobs that have related skills they can learn.

“We follow up with them after their summer jobs and encourage them to stay in school and to go on to technical school or college after they finish high school.”

People living in the 10 counties served by the Middle Georgia Consortium who want more information on how to apply for the summer work programs can call (800) 537-1933 or visit its Web site at www.mgwis.com. Those living in Bibb County should call the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development at 751-7333 or visit its Web site at www.macon-mowd.com.

Employers wishing to take part in the program may also call the same numbers.

For other locations in Georgia where youths can register for the summer job program in their county, visit the Georgia Department of Labor Web site at www.dol.state.ga.us/find_one_stop_centers.htm for a directory by county of workforce development offices.

To contact writer Chuck Thompson, call 923-6199, extension 235.

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