News

Summer employment program is a two-way street

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

It’s still the dead of winter, but staff members at Kitsap County Public Works are already gearing up for summer.

During the next several weeks, the department will be sifting through cover letters and resumes to fill out spots for their summer employment program. The program offers high school and college-aged students the chance to work with KCPW and learn the ins and outs of the department.

“It’s twofold: we get the work done and we get a chance to ... have these kids make some money for school,” KCPW Accounting and Finance Manager Dean Brown said.

The program has been formally operating for more than 10 years and while it may seem like just another summer job, it’s led to a lot more for some of the program’s alums.

Citas Brooks, for example, wears two hats at KCPW as a fiscal technician supervisor and as the summer employment program administrator, after spending her younger years in the clerical part of the program.

“The kids benefit and we benefit at the same time,” she said.

KCPW fills about 75 positions each summer, though many are taken up by returning workers and only about 30 new hires come on annually. Returners are rewarded with more responsibilities and higher pay. The pay scale ranges from about $8.50 an hour for a first-year worker to as much as $10 an hour for a fourth-year worker.

Because returning workers don’t have to be re-trained, they’re more valuable to the department and can help train new recruits.

“We want kids to come back because we start getting value with them in the second or third year,” Brown said.

There are a few catches for anyone in the program. Students are expected to have at least a 2.0 grade point average and have to be carrying at least 12 credit hours on their high school or college transcripts.

But the perks are nice, too — students can use their hours on the job to apply for Americorps scholarships.

Last year, 37 students in the program earned $1,000 each from Americorps, Brown said.

Brooks and Brown also act as references for plenty of students applying to other jobs and said they’ve stayed in touch with a lot of students from the program long after they’ve left. The program also is a money-saver for the department.

“It would cost a lot more if we had to hire full-time people and keep them busy year round,” Brown said. “To me (though) the chance to give back to the community and give back to the kids outweighs the costs.

“This is my favorite part of the job.”

• Students at least 18 years of age can apply to the Kitsap County Public Works (KCPW) summer employment program online at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/summer_students.htm. Applications also can be picked up at the KCPW offices located at 614 Division Street, MS 26 in Port Orchard.

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