Teen at Work: Heather Richter earns her partially subsidized paycheck working in the Early Learning Center of the First United Methodist Church.
Objective: Provide incentives to Linn County employers to hire teens for summer jobs.
In a Nutshell: The Linn County Business Development Center (LCBDC), a county agency funded with federal, state and county funds, reimburses employers $2 an hour for the first 500 hours that a teen works. Payments are made after the youths complete the employment. Last year, the arrangements ran from May 14 through Oct. 14.
Where it Happens: Every business in Linn County with 35 or fewer employees is eligible.
When it Began: Summer 2006.
Who Started It and Who Runs It: The program was the idea of Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist, who as a small businessman recognized that Oregon’s indexed minimum wage (currently $7.80 per hour) makes it very expensive to hire and train youth for summer jobs. The program is run by Keith Miller, coordinator of the LCBDC.
Overcoming Obstacles: “The biggest problem has been to get the word out to eligible employers,” Miller says. This year, the Oregon Employment Department in Linn County sent flyers to every eligible employer in the county. Also, a news release was sent to the three newspapers in the county.
Cost: $50,000 is allotted for reimbursements this summer. Administrative overhead is minimal and is covered by the LCBDC.
Who Pays: The Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, using video poker revenue earmarked for the counties for economic development.
Youth Served: Eighty-five teens participated last summer. Participants must be ages 16 to 19, live in Linn County and be legally able to work in the United States.
Research Shows: A marked increase in youth hired. In 2006, fifteen companies hired 33 teens. Last year, 45 companies employed the 85 teens.
What Still Gets in the Way: Getting the word out to prospective employers. Even through the number of participating employers tripled from 2006 to 2007, the program did not spend the $50,000 available for reimbursements.