Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $83,000 will fund paid summer internships for local students

HARRISBURG, Feb. 25 – Erie County students will have a chance to benefit from paid summer internships thanks to a grant of $83,122 from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, according to state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie.

The funding awarded to NWPA Job Connect – the northwest region’s local workforce development board – will give area students and job seekers between ages 16 and 24 the opportunity to earn a minimum of $10.35 per hour as they participate in summer internships with local public- and private-sector employers.

“Summer internships are an ideal way for students to get a feel for what it’s like to work in a real job setting as they start to explore careers,” Bizzarro said. “By contributing in a real-life work environment, students develop confidence in their abilities while at the same time getting a sense of how their interests and skills overlap with real-world opportunities.”

Harkins agreed, noting, “Internships of all kinds are incredibly valuable because they give students a chance to start building real-world, employable skills. At the same time, these programs help local employers tailor workforce training to their emerging needs. So we’re opening up career possibilities for students while strengthening the employment pool for our local businesses."

Merski added that he was especially excited by the program because of the valuable opportunities it offers to supplement classroom learning.

“These ‘earn as you learn’ programs round out classroom learning in an essential way by providing hands-on experience and by teaching skills that can be learned only through real-world experience,” Merski said. “Internships like the ones offered by this program can give students and young job seekers a great foundation on which to build when they enter the employment market.”

The grant is one of 22 to workforce development boards statewide. The northwest board serves six counties, including Erie, Crawford, Venango, Clarion, Forest and Warren.

The funding is part of the State/Local Internship Program. The SLIP program is 100 percent federally funded through money available from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which helps young adults develop workforce preparation skills and provides participants with their first work experience.

The 2019 SLIP will operate for eight weeks between May 6 and Aug. 30, 2019. Those interested in learning more about the program can visit www.pacareerlink.pa.gov to find a local career office or contact the board at www.nwpajobconnect.org.