The youth summer jobs program funded and sponsored by Gila County is getting noticed: luring twice as many applicants this year — and just a few weeks ago winning a prestigious award from the National Association of Counties (NACo).

“Congratulations to everyone involved in developing this innovative program,” said Lindsey Maggard, senior public affairs coordinator with NACo.

“Your hard work will yield positive results for Gila County residents. NACo is pleased to announce the 2020 Achievement Award in the category of Community and Economic Development,” Maggard continued in making the award.

Workforce development is one of five key elements of Gila County’s strategic plan, and a tangible example is the summer jobs program launched three years ago to give youths, ages 16 to 21 work experience opportunities across a variety of both county and local government offices.

More than just a summer job, the six-week internships are a chance to develop skills that employers say are lacking in the local labor market.

Prior to 2017, Gila County departments hired summer help, as budgets allowed — but that year marked an organized effort to expand the program to include the city of Globe, and towns countywide, with 17 employed. The following year, the Gila County Board of Supervisors funded expansion to six incorporated communities and one rural school district — 33 were hired in 2018, and the total grew to 37 last year.

“So, this year we had more than 70 applicants — and that’s twice as many as we are able to place in jobs,” said Woody Cline, chairman of the Gila County Board of Supervisors.

“In some ways that’s a good problem to have — even those who weren’t selected this year gained experience in preparing their application for a job and going through the interview process with Cathy Melvin — a superb Gila County staffer. Melvin deserves credit for the growth and success of this initiative. Our continuing goal is for applicants to work within the community where they live, learning job skills and making future connections and — we hope — keeping their skills here in Gila County once they finish their education. Let’s build on this success — maybe with a bigger budget or more funding partners next year, allowing us to hire more applicants. Perhaps with new employers requesting summer workers next year, too,” Cline said.

Offices or employers with a supervisor interested in a potential 2021 summer worker are welcome to call or email Cathy Melvin, 928-402-4401, cmelvin@gilacountyaz.gov.

Melvin added, “We couldn’t do the program without our communities and county departments, with staff being willing to mentor over the summer.”

Experience for participants during the program

Youth Jobs Class of 2019 participant Maria Cook worked in the Gila County Attorney’s Office, while Jacob Miles and Lauren Lopez were assigned to the Gila County Health Department, said Melvin.

Denisse Camache assisted Globe Public Library staff; Nick Smyers worked in Young for the school, Arielle O’Connor for Community Development in Payson — and the Library District. Dylan Olson and Samual Benedetto got an up-close look at the workings of the Gila County’s Elections Department and Michaela Henderson assisted the City of Globe’s Economic Development director, Melvin added.

“I loved my summer — everyone I worked with was amazing — I learned so much at work. I’m going to college for political science and then law school, my job taught me useful information and experience,” wrote Cook.

“Working in the Health Department was great. During the summer I learned about so many of the services they offer, and was able to work in nearly all of those fields — doing so made me even more certain what I want to achieve in my future,” Lopez shared.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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