PLYMOUTH — Eighty-five young adults in Northwest Indiana had the opportunity this summer to do more than mow a lawn or babysit for some extra cash. They were part of a three-year-old program offered by a partnership between the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Department of Workforce Development, and the Department of Natural Resources to young people from economically-challenged families. The youth earned a little more than $11 per hour to do tasks similar to what a full-time INDOT employee would do in a typical day.
“We have some really good kids this year — they are eager to learn, and not just here to earn a paycheck,” said Matt Deitchley, media relations director for INDOT’s LaPorte District.
The program is called Young Hoosier Conservation Corps, and it is funded by the state through the Department of Workforce Development. Several of the youth met with INDOT commissioner Michael Cline Thursday at the Plymouth subdistrict office.
“We really like that this program is providing opportunities for 226 kids (state-wide),” said Cline Thursday. “They work for us, we get the value of their work, and they have a job that pays a pretty good wage and they get a different perspective on the world. It’s a win-win.”
Cline said that the Department of Workforce Development supplies a list of candidates for the program through WorkOne.
“We hire for attitude, and train for skill,” said Cline.
He added that some youth who have participated in the program earn a CDL and go on to get a permanent job with INDOT.
“We would consider those success stories,” said Cline.
Britteny Pender, of North Liberty, is completing her second summer of working in the program. She is a junior at Ball State University studying biology and initially found out about Young Hoosier Conservation Corps from her former principal at John Glenn High School.
“I just wanted a job, and the pay was good and hours were awesome,” said Pender.
Now, Pender cuts grass, weeds, and paves and seals roads from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day during the summer.
“I do everything most full-time (INDOT employees) do,” said Pender. “I’ve picked up roadkill before — I didn’t like that too much.”
Though she doesn’t envision a career with INDOT in her future, Pender said she’s learned a lot.
“I’ve learned how to fix a lot of things,” said Pender. “I took a weed whip apart and put it back together. That’s pretty impressive for me.”
She said the Young Hoosier Conservation Corps program is “an awesome opportunity.”
Anthony Eldridge, of Walkerton, heard about the program from his landlord, who is also a manager for INDOT.
“I’ve learned how to repair cracked roads, patch holes…” said Eldridge. “I never used a weed wacker before I got here.”
Eldridge plans to join the Air Force this fall, but said he would recommend the YHCC program to other young people.
“Just be ready for tedious projects,” he cautioned.
YHCC runs from May through October each year, and interested young people should contact their local WorkOne office for more information. For up-to-date information on INDOT, including road closures, traffic information, and project updates on endeavors like the new U.S. 31, visit their newly-created Facebook page, www.facebook.com/INDOTnorthwest .