IRON COUNTY—A state summer youth work program may end due to guideline changes.
“Right now it doesn’t look good,” County Board Chairman Wayne Wales said last week. “We just had a Michigan Works committee meeting in Houghton Monday.
“We (at the county level) don’t have any control over this program. But we want the townships and cities to know what they can expect in terms of budgeting,” Wales added.
Currently, Michigan Works youth workers help area municipal crews and service providers with a variety of routine jobs to free up full-time staff for more complex assignments. But the state now requires supervisors to provide summer workers with mentoring, tutoring and paid training. The cost of that training cuts into the number of employees the program can support.
“The issue is that (the state) has changed the criteria,” Wales said. “A big share of that program now has to go toward training and supervision.”
This summer, the program provided 25 jobs for Iron County residents between the ages 15 to 21, according to Western Upper Peninsula Michigan Works Director Keith Johnson.
“Last year in Iron County, our payroll was just over $74,000,” Johnson said. “In the six counties of the western Upper Peninsula district, we spent just over $286,000. As of right now, it looks like this program could be completely scratched.”
This summer, participants worked at 11 sites in Iron County, including the Iron County Medicare Facility, Pentoga Park, Iron River Township and the cities of Iron River, Gaastra and Caspian, according to Stacy Dominici, who serves as the Michigan Works training specialist in Caspian and has run the youth program in Iron County for the past three summers.
Dominici said that between the demand for summer work and the local need for summer help, she could easily place 25 temporary workers during 2013.
Workers earn minimum wage and can work for up to 10 weeks. “This is a win-win situation. This money tends to go right back into these communities,” Johnson added. “For some communities, this is their summer staff.”
Johnson said he would know in January if the 2013 summer youth program will be available.