Recovery money helps local teen gain skillsSolon Springs is a pretty little town, with tall pines and vacation cabins surrounding Lake St Croix. For most months of the year, its population is around 500 people, many of whom commute to jobs in Superior or Duluth, which are about 40 miles to the north.
Solon Springs is a pretty little town, with tall pines and vacation cabins surrounding Lake St Croix. For most months of the year, its population is around 500 people, many of whom commute to jobs in Superior or Duluth, which are about 40 miles to the north. Then, every June, the summer folks arrive, and the population almost doubles. That’s good for business, but hard on the Recycling Center.
“Yes, every summer our work load really increases,” Wayne Larson, the Recycling Center’s manager explained. “The number of people living here and the volume of the trash we take in about doubles. I really need some extra workers who I can depend on.”
This summer Wayne has two extra helpers, thanks to the Summer Youth Employment Program, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the stimulus package. One of the young people, Jonny Elmore, has been working with Wayne since the end of May.
“It’s been great to have Jonny and the other young man working with me this summer. They’re both over 18, so I can train them on all of the equipment,” Larson said. “This week I’ll teach Jonny how to operate the skid-steer, which will not only give me more time to handle other jobs this summer, but it will also teach Jonny a valuable skill. If he can operate the skid-steer, he can easily handle a fork lift, and that’s something he can use to get a job.
“Jonny’s also gaining people skills; he’s learning a lot working with the community,” he said. “Customer service is really important, and we try to help everyone who needs assistance, especially our elderly. Jonny is very helpful and highly thought of. I get a lot of comments from the community, and I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback about his work here.”
From Elmore’s perspective, “I like the activity, being outdoors, and helping people. And, the money helps. The summer work program is a good opportunity for kids to make some money and put that money back into the economy. The more people we get working, the quicker the economy will improve.”
Before this job, Elmore had been working part-time at a local restaurant after he graduated from high school in 2008. That job ended in the spring. “I couldn’t find work around here, and it’s tough to get back and forth to Superior for a job. If I didn’t have this, I’d just be hanging around, doing nothing, really.”
“I like what I’m doing,” Elmore said. “But I know this will end in August. So now I’m looking into college for the fall.”
Elmore credits Sharon La Rose, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) with telling him about the Summer Youth Employment Program. La Rose’s office is located in the Job Center in Superior, right next to the staff with the Northwest Wisconsin Concentrated Employment Program (CEP, Inc), which is administering the regional Summer Youth Employment Program. “My program works very closely with the CEP programs, and we coordinate efforts for our clients. When the CEP staff told me about the summer jobs available in Solon Springs, I immediately thought of Jonny,” La Rose said. “He’s very pleasant, very punctual, is willing to meet people, and try new things. Jonny has a strong work ethic, and I knew he’d be a good worker.”
“Not only can Jonny work right in his home town, and avoid the costly drive to Superior, but the community benefits, too,” she said. “This is a very busy time at the Recycling Center and there’s no money to hire extra help. This way, everybody wins. Jonny has a job and income. Wayne Larson gets a good worker. And, the community members have fast, friendly, excellent service.”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Program is giving Elmore a chance to earn a summer paycheck, gain work experience and learn some valuable skills, and its helping a small community.