Jyle Pettersson's husband left shortly after doctors said their 9-year-old son was hyperactive and their 6-year-old daughter had cystic fibrosis. The girl would require long-term therapy and the boy would also need special care.
Pettersson thought about ways to earn money at home. She considered doing computer work there but didn't know where to begin. She found few training programs and little support in their small Idaho community.Her mother, who lives in Salt Lake City, encouraged her to pursue programs in Utah. Through the county's Division of Job Training and Development, she took classes at the Utah Opportunities Industrialization Center to improve her math skills. Then she took a computer class at the Certified Career Institute.
"Other than finishing high school," she told division staffers, "it was the first thing I really completed and did well."
But she couldn't find a job. She didn't have the work experience or skills to compete effectively in the job market.
Today, Jyle Pettersson is an intern with the Single Parent Economic Independence Demonstration, getting experience she hopes will enable her to get a full-time job and support her family.
The Single Parent Economic Independence Demonstration project was introduced in Davis County. It's been in Salt Lake County since mid-September, according to Salt Lake supervisor Nancy Henderson. There are also programs in the St. George and Bear River-Logan areas.
Next year officials expect to introduce the program into other areas of the state. The state program will serve as a model for the national expansion of the project, Susan Sheehan, director of the project, told the Davis Private Industry Council.
"We are on the cutting edge of welfare reform. It has really exceeded all of our expectations. I am amazed that when I asked businesses for help that they give," Sheehan said. "We have more businesses on the waiting list than clients."
In Salt Lake County, 17 interns work with 13 companies and there's room for more interns. In fact, 64 businesses have agreed to participate.
To be eligible, an intern must be a low-income single parent or displaced homemaker. Before serving one of the three-to-six-month internships, each applicant must participate in assertiveness-training and job-seeking-skills workshops.
The company pays no salary; funding is through a federal grant. The company must provide a job description, meaningful work and a management-level mentor to provide supervision and guidance. The intern works 40 hours a week, and the company needn't hire an intern after the training, although program officials hope interns will be allowed to compete for jobs.
The internship is not designed to support the intern or her family. Those who receive public assistance can get up to $125 a month; those without grants can get $300. Up to $75 is available to cover transportation costs.
"We're not paying them for their work," Henderson said. "The idea is to give them the money it would cost to participate in this work experience - money to buy clothing, lunch, cosmetics, that kind of thing. These are low-income people and we know they don't have the money to take out to do those things."
Anyone in Salt Lake or Tooele counties interested in the program should call 468-3247.