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Funds Help Put People To Work

POLK COUNTY -- Nearly $563,000 in federal stimulus funds will be used to create summer employment and training opportunities for young people in Polk County.

POLK COUNTY -- Nearly $563,000 in federal stimulus funds will be used to create summer employment and training opportunities for young people in Polk County.

Polk HALO (Helping Achieve Lifelong Objectives), a career guidance and employment agency based in Independence, officially received a portion of moneys awarded to the state through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last week.

Seventy-five individuals between the ages of 17 and 24 will be working different jobs and taking part in various career exploration activities throughout the county beginning this month, said HALO director Katherine Bartlett.

"We're pretty pleased," Bartlett said. "This is really about training youth for living-wage jobs, or getting them interested in areas they can further their education in."

Youths will be recruited through school districts, the county Department of Human Services and other agencies. Residents who meet Workforce Investment Act criteria -- low income with barriers to employment and education -- may also apply, Bartlett said.

The ARRA funds will cover payroll for participants in a number of job opportunities coordinated between HALO and different community partners. The program will run through August or September.

One project already established with the city of Independence, HALO's fiscal agent, is sidewalk repair around Independence and Monmouth.

With construction professionals supervising, youths will fix stretches of deteriorated sidewalks in the two cities -- public walkways and sidewalks of interested private property owners.

Other opportunities include:

* Positions with the Monmouth-Independence Network, which will allow youths to work with fiber optic technicians as cable installers.

* Slots as counselors for the Dallas Summer Blast camps for people interested in early childhood education careers.

* Twenty slots in a "green" building and site sustainability program, in which individuals will restore wetlands, remove invasive plant species, and construct shelters in Monmouth and Independence.

Individual job placements will also be possible.

"If I had a youth interested in becoming an insurance agent ... I would call an insurance agent and ask if he or she would train our youth for an eight-week period while we cover pay," Bartlett said.

Besides work, youths involved in the program will tour different job sites and career apprenticeship centers in the Willamette Valley, will undergo safety training for OSHA certification, and take part in a team-building event at the Youth With a Mission campus in Salem.

"It's really exciting," said Shawn Irvine, Independence community development technician. "What we're doing reflects the whole purpose of the stimulus bill, with the twist of giving low-income youths skills to find better work in the area" afterward.

For more information or to apply, call 503-507-0268, write to hireme@polksummerwork.com, or visit www.polksummerwork.com

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