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Federal funds making a local difference

POSTED June 27, 2009 4:28 p.m.
At the ripe old age of 14 I entered the American work force and I haven’t been without employment for more than a month’s time in over 20 years.
I remember my first job very clearly. It was my duty to arrive at the Arcadia Children’s Home at 6 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday and make each and every bed of the 50-bed facility before 11 a.m. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! All 50 beds were waterbeds for therapeutic reasons — you try folding hospital corners on a waterbed!
Since my early bed-making days, I have worked in a variety of positions from summer jobs in a laundry room and kitchen to more entry-level career positions in a hospital, veterinary office, long-term nursing care facility, ambulance, and school. (And all that before I decided to become a journalist!)
I attribute my work ethic to my mother and father, both hard workers from generations of Americans who put their hands, backs and hearts into their dreams.
But I also understand the devastating impact of extended unemployment. After working for a computer software company for over 10 years, my father lost his job. At first my dad wasn’t worried. Although he was in his mid-50s, he thought his prospects of finding a new position were good. But after one year of no job offers, he turned to a head hunting firm. He then spent another six months flying across the country for job interviews. After that, he kind of gave up. He lived off of his savings for another two years; selling his Mustang for a hatchback and moving from his upscale apartment house to a duplex.
The extended time away from his chosen field of work, along with the loss of a workplace social network, affected my father greatly. Although he still enjoyed listening to a good jazz band, hitting some golf balls on the range and making the best spaghetti sauce ever, he wasn’t the same man. He aged at a seemingly rapid pace before my eyes.
I know that my father’s struggles are similar to the ones that many are facing today. Unemployment is at an all-time high with little hope of a quick economic turnaround.
But there has been one recent ripple in the sea of unemployment despair — The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The ARRA has seen billions of dollars in federal monies go to support local programs helping to put people back to work. One of those local programs benefiting from the ARRA is the Stanislaus County Workforce Alliance Youth at Work program.
This program trains youth 17 to 24 years old on the basics of getting and keeping a job. They then place these youths in entry-level positions at businesses around the county and pay their salaries. That’s right, out-of-work young people with little or no job experience are getting their feet in the door of local businesses and the businesses get free labor out of the deal.
Now that’s what I call a good economic stimulus program.
The Journal is participating in this program and we welcomed our new employee on Tuesday. She was polite, articulate and eager to learn. When I asked her about the Alliance’s Youth at Work program, she said she thought it was great how through the federal government she was able to get a job. She went on to say that when she first heard of the ARRA and President Barack Obama’s plan to help the unemployed through the Act, she didn’t think she would be one of the people benefiting from the economic stimulus plan.
Now that there is at least one more opportunity for young people to get ahead in the competitive job market, hopefully the next program will help those veteran workers who need a hand getting back into the swing of things.  Because if things stay the way they are now, it wouldn’t surprise me to find Steve Jobs serving up my next Starbucks indulgence.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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