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Employment Board appeals to businesses to help youth

Date: 5/21/2012

May 21, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Angel Valle, an intern at CareerPoint in Holyoke, said that having a three-week internship at the job development agency led to real changes in his life. A high school dropout, Valle earned his GED and then applied to Holyoke Community College where he will be studying business administration.

Valle told his story and how a three-week job made an impact as part of the press event on May 16 announcing the 2012 Youth Summer Jobs Campaign.

Officials from the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County (REB) made their annual appeal to area employers to support the program, either with jobs or contributions that would support other positions.

Currently there is funding in place to pay for 650 jobs for youth from Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke and Westfield, Christine Abramowitz, director of planning at the REB, said. The goal is to supplement this state and federal funding with contributions from local businesses to raise the number of young people employed to 1,500.

Participating businesses may be eligible for a Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

Pater Clarke, president of Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo) announced a $5,000 contribution, which should pay for four or five jobs in the program. Over the past five years, WMECo has contributed more than $100,000 to the REB, Clarke added.

A donation of $150 will pay one youth for one week's worth of work and donations are tax deductible.

According to a report compiled by the Center for Labor Market Studies in March, the past decade (2000 to 2010) has been called "the lost decade" by some economists because there have been few to no gain for American workers, with the nation's teenagers suffering the most.

According to the report, "only one of every four American teens worked in the first two months of 2012 and among low-income, minority teens, the employment rate was as low as one in 10."

The report also noted there is a direct link between teens having work experience and their success with careers as adults.

Through the REB's program, participating teens earn at least $8 an hour working an average of 20 hours a week for six weeks. They also receive 10 hours of work preparedness training.

Looking at about 40 young people who have participated in the program, William Ward the president and CEO of the REB, said, "A job is your connection to your future."

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who worked at CareerPoint, said he knew how important jobs were to teens. He noted the city of Holyoke was contributing $100,000 to the program and was hoping to leverage the city's money to gain support from the private sector to create more positions.

Competition for the jobs is intense as in Springfield alone there were 4,000 applications distributed for 415 state-funded positions in 2011.

To make a donation or for additional information, contact Kathryn Kirby, the youth employment manager at the REB, at 755-1359.

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