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State funding to provide jobs, career training for low-income youths

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CANTON -North country agencies will receive more than $550,000 to provide more than 240 youngsters in low-income households with summer employment and valuable workforce training this summer.

The jobs will be provided through $27.5 million in funding distributed by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. That is a $2.5 million increase over last year to correlate with the increase in the minimum wage. The money will provide employment across the state for more than 18,000 young people — the same number of youths as in previous years.

The program is open to young people between the ages of 14 and 20 who qualify. To participate, their total household income must be below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, the income for a family of three must be below $39,060 a year. Eligible candidates are selected on a first come, first served basis.

Jefferson County will receive $209,180 and expects to hire 100 youths, St. Lawrence will receive $300,484 and expects to hire more than 100 and Lewis County will receive $48,364 and expects to hire 40.

The program is more involved than the typical summer job many young people get. The state funding pays for the youths’ work and job readiness classes on joining the workforce.

Cheryl A. Mayforth, director of the Jefferson County Department of Employment & Training at the WorkPlace, said each county runs the program differently and funding provides different kinds of employment in the local and private sectors. Program participants will work in school districts, parks, nursing homes, summer camps, child care organizations, senior citizens centers, community recreation centers or offices and as laborers, custodial workers or in other roles.

With the increases in funding, Ms. Mayforth said, “we have to go through our costs and establish how everything will be run this year.”

Larry Fetcie, senior employment and training counselor for St. Lawrence County, said, “We give them a list of job options from outdoor to indoor and workplace preference.”

He said his agency also offers candidates choices based on their geographic location.

The program connects participants to jobs and helps them acquire skills they can use in school and future careers, and helps guide them to possible careers.

“We help them understand there are expectations in the workforce,” Lewis County Social Services Commissioner Stacy L. Alvord said. “Our youth counselors help them understand through formal training how to be the best worker you can be.”

Through training, Ms. Alvord said, participants learn how to dress for the job, how to conduct themselves during an interview and that they are responsible to show up prepared and on time for work every day.

Julie L. Daniels, Jefferson County Youth Empowerment Program director, said the program is a great opportunity for a youth’s first job, or to help them save money over the summer, receive job references for future employment and learn about the kinds of jobs they would like or not like to pursue.

“It might not be their favorite job they’ve ever had, but it’s getting them to stick with it and honor work commitments,” Ms. Daniels said. “Sometimes these temporary jobs turn into permanent careers.”

The program also teaches financial literacy, how to write a resume and how to have a good online presence.

“We tell them to Google themselves and make sure nothing pops up they wouldn’t want a future employer to see,” Ms. Daniels said.

Those who are eligible and interested in participating should contact their county’s social services department. To find out how, visit the state website at http://wdt.me/Wcv6HC. The deadline to apply is May 30. The program begins in mid-July and runs through the end of August.

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