January 29, 2010

Hire Colorado to help jobless

Hot tip for businesses on the brink of recovery: Your local Workforce Center has a pool of skilled workers for you, and it won’t cost you a dime to hire them.

As part of a pilot project sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, funds have been sent to the states to subsidize short-term jobs for people who have exhausted or are reaching the end of their unemployment benefits. In Colorado, the money has been divvied up among eight workforce regions along the Front Range, including Larimer and Weld counties, for the Hire Colorado internship program.

“The purpose of the program is really threefold,” explained Adam Crowe, program coordinator for the Larimer County Workforce Center. “First, to relieve the burden of cash assistance from the TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) program, since people are most likely to need that cash assistance when unemployment benefits run out; second, to give the interns a chance to learn new skills and network through temporary employment; and third, to provide a real stimulus benefit to employers who participate.”

Crowe said the kind of employers most likely to benefit from the Hire Colorado program, which pays all wages and taxes for the intern up to approximately $6,000 — about 14 weeks of full-time work at between $9 and $11 per hour — are those who “need to grow to keep up in this economy but can’t afford hire in this economy.”

A perfect example is Lightning Hybrids in Loveland, a manufacturer of electric sports cars. The startup even posted a notice about Hire Colorado on its website in hopes of recruiting skilled workers through the program.

Goals, requirements set

Crowe said the goal of Hire Colorado is to place 1,667 interns in the eight counties. Larimer County’s goal is 104, while Weld County would like to place 59 and Boulder County, which is placing its interns in short-term projects with 43 nonprofit and government agencies, is shooting for 70 to 80. In Larimer County, about 75 different employers had signed up by Jan. 22, in businesses across the board, looking for everything from office assistant to auto mechanic.

It’s still early in the process, since the funds only became available to the Workforce Centers in mid-December and internships must be completed by June 30. Crowe said the deadline for potential interns to turn in their applications is Jan. 29, but of the 50 job seekers who attended a Jan. 22 workshop in Loveland, 32 took applications. It was the third such informational program held in Larimer County, and Crowe expects to receive more applications than the 104 slots available as a result of the outreach.

“Some people are disappointed when they find out these are temporary jobs,” Crowe said. “But they are designed to give both the intern and the employer a leg up – it’s really the concept of a stimulus at work.”

And if the word “intern” is conjuring up visions of kids with iPods in their ears, look at the eligibility requirements for Hire Colorado participants:

  • They must be legal residents of the county providing the subsidy;
  • They must be unemployed and have received unemployment benefits in the past year;
  • Total household income must be below $75,000 in the past year; and
  • There must be at least one child under the age of 18 living in the household.

That last bit can include grandparents as well as parents, said Melissa English, business services consultant for the Larimer County Workforce Center. She said eligible interns range from 20 to 50 years old, at every skill level.

The basic requirement for employers is that they cannot use the intern to fill a position open as the result of layoffs.

Hot tip for businesses on the brink of recovery: Your local Workforce Center has a pool of skilled workers for you, and it won’t cost you a dime to hire them.

As part of a pilot project sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, funds have been sent to the states to subsidize short-term jobs for people who have exhausted or are reaching the end of their unemployment benefits. In Colorado, the money has been divvied up among eight workforce regions along the Front Range, including Larimer and Weld counties, for the Hire…

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