|Commissioner Loretta Smith (right) with intern Tria McFerson|
The White House has invited Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith to the nation's capitol to help honor local "Champions of Change" in relation to the SummerWorks internship program.
SummerWorks internships offer teens paid work experience during the season. The180-hour internships are targeted toward low-income youth from underserved communities. Commissioner Smith helped ensure the program would continue and expand, even when the City of Portland was considering axing it, during budget discussions earlier this year.
The national "Champions of Change" program and Smith will honor local youths on Sept. 26, along with other people, businesses, and organizations across the country who have made valuable contributions in their communities.
This year, more than 1,200 students countywide applied for 520 total SummerWorks placements, the county says. Since 2011, Multnomah County has quadrupled its number of placements to provide 100 of those placements. Smith's advocacy was a key reason for the expansion.
One of Smith's first acts on becoming a county commissioner was to invite Black men and teens to the county building to discuss their employment challenges.
"Here at Multnomah County, we're especially proud that young men and women from low-income communities spent their summer with us gaining their first meaningful work experiences in jobs that ranged from animal services to medical clinics; from libraries to road crews," Smith said in a statement.
"So many of our interns use this money to pay for personal expenses or help their family."
The program is run through Worksystems, Inc., the federal Workforce Investment Act job training program for Oregon. "This has been a top priority for me," Smith said. "More than half of the county's employees identify as baby boomers, poised to retire in the next 10 years. SummerWorks opened the door for us to develop young people who we can recruit and hire in the future. Training them to be a part of the workforce is smart planning."
Smith plans to expand the program to include low-income young people in rural areas of Multnomah County and pledges to work with business leaders to expand private sector investment in youth jobs.