Workforce Investment Act gives kids a summer job, provides hope

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas Workforce Center in Jonesboro said Friday it will be able to provide full-time jobs for 6 weeks to 700 people between the ages of 16-24 this summer. The Workforce Investment Act received an additional 1-million dollars from President Obama's stimulus package. The program, which has been in place since 2000, has provided young people jobs for a multitude of reasons.

"We got some stimulus money and everything so we can do a lot more with it. They also added, can put them to work in the private sector," said Donnie Faulkner, mayor of Harrisburg.

Faulkner said 23 people will be employed by the Arkansas Workforce Center in Jonesboro and will be doing various duties for the city. The city's road department will be using young men to clear debris from ditches and clean up the community.

"We're going to have a total of about 23 here in Harrisburg and some of them are going to be working at the school. About 3 here at city hall and 2 at the library," said Faulkner. "If we take as many as 8, we can hire a supervisor and that supervisor will make ten dollars an hour."

Faulkner said the city was able to use 5 employees through the Workforce Investment Act in 2008. This year, stimulus money has allowed the program to quadruple the number of employees.

"It's a program that brings in kids from 16 years old to 24 years old and they've made some changes this year. It used to be 21 years old," said Faulkner.

Officials with the Arkansas Workforce Center in Jonesboro said the program is offered in 7 counties; Poinsett, Craighead, Clay, Greene, Lawrence, Mississippi and Randolph.

Arkansas Workforce will pay out more than $1-million in payroll checks this summer. Officials said the purpose of the program is to help spark the local economy and give young people something to do during the summer months.

"The checks come through workforce and everything. They make 8-dollars an hour and they work 40 hours a week," said Faulkner.

If you're interested in finding a job through the Workforce Investment Act, click here.

Faulkner told Region 8 News employees working with the road department will be maintaining baseball and softball fields. They'll also pick up trash along city streets.

"Out of the court office, they handle tickets and stuff and stamping them and getting them ready for court," said Faulkner.

The program allows prospective college students a way to earn money to pay for books, gives them something to do during the summer and provides them with on-the-job training. For others in the program, the job is more important.

"I've been switched back and forth between the circuit court's office and the police department, but I'm basically sitting in here helping Ms. Privette. I've been helping her answer the phone and take reservations for the city pool. I've been helping the city clerk. I've been helping her catch up on some tickets, and mostly that's what it consists of because there's lots of tickets to catch up on," said Heather Henry.

Henry has been working at the Harrisburg City Hall for 2 weeks. She said she's been trying to find a job for the past 9 months.

"Before I couldn't even find a job at any of the local stores, stores around Harrisburg," said Henry.

Henry was without a job and trying to support her 20 month old baby girl. Henry said she wants to get a job in the medical profession.

"I don't really have a lot of direction in my life until I had my kid, and since I've had her, the only thing I'm worried about is making a living for her and there's always a job in the medical field," said Henry. "To support my child and myself, to have a good life and to do it myself."

Henry said the Arkansas Workforce Center's Workforce Investment Act program has given her a new sense of purpose and direction.

"There's an 8 week program over there in Marked Tree and they pay for that and it's a good job. You can get a job at the Red Cross. You can get a job at NEA. It's just drawing blood and doing lab work," said Henry.

Other people, such as Tadnetta Abraham, are in the program in order to pay for school.

"I do tickets. I do dockets. I file papers. I clean sometimes, just whatever is asked I do," said Abraham.

Abraham said she also wants to enter the medical field. She got a job through the Arkansas Workforce Center in Jonesboro.

"I learn the value of money by working and I learn new things. I've never had to do tickets and stuff like that," said Abraham.

Abraham said she is trying to get into the nursing program at Arkansas State University at Marked Tree.

"I love helping people. I used to take care of my grandma so I know a little about the nursing atmosphere," said Abraham.

There are 3 workforce centers in northeast Arkansas. One is in Jonesboro, another in Blytheville and the other in Paragould.

"It gives these people some training and stuff, you know, in different sectors and some of them go to work in the street department. That'll help maintain the parks and stuff like that," said Faulkner. "It's better than sitting at home and jobs are not available right now. It puts them to work."

"This program is what kick started it for me. As soon as I got my GED, I came and I applied for it and all of the sudden, there's all these opportunities opening up," said Henry. "It gives kids a positive atmosphere to be in when they're out for school. For me it's a little more important because I'm trying to get my life in order."

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