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By Lois Thomson

The term "win-win situation" perfectly describes what the Private Industry Council is doing to help high school students and young adults obtain jobs. Alec Italiano, Director of Workforce and Economic Development for PIC, explained about the program that finds jobs for youth in Westmoreland and Fayette Counties by pairing them with local companies, and paying them $10 an hour for 240 hours' worth of work.

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Private Industry Council Helps Youth with Jobs

Italiano said the funding comes from both the Westmoreland Fayette Investment Board and a grant, and there are actually two programs, one for in-school students ages 16-18, and one for out-of-school youth ages 18-24 who are not attending post-secondary school.   "It's a career interest program, almost like a job shadowing,” said Italiano. “It's not just someone's first job, but if they are interested in a particular line of work, we do our best to place them there. We've had people interested in photography and we've placed them with a photographer; the same with plumbers or electricians."

He added that the placement is sometimes based on convenience; for example, if the student doesn't have a means of transportation, he or she will be placed somewhere close to home.

This is a program that assists the participating businesses as well. As Italiano said, "The company benefits because it gets someone to work there, and we're paying their wages. A lot of worksites like it because they can't immediately afford to take on anybody. Sometimes, though, they'll offer a full-time job to the student afterwards; that happens fairly often."

Italiano said the program has always received strong participation from the whole Mon Valley area – places like Belle Vernon, the Waypoint Youth & Community Center in West Newton, Perryopolis, and the Monessen Library and Monessen EMS often take part.

"There are a variety of businesses. A lot of municipalities need help with clerical work, or parks and recreation. Golf courses are always looking for seasonal workers, and we get a lot of child-care sites. It's always good to have an extra set of hands there."

Originally designed for summer, the program has been transformed into year-round. Even in‑school children may be able to take some time away from classes and get in a few hours of work during a week, although they must get working papers from the high school.   Shujuane Martin, president and CEO of PIC, said PIC's mission has always been to help young people in this way. "Anything we can do to boost the economy is good; and what's better than hands-on experience for the kids?"

 

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