Region 9 Economic Development District announced a new high school internship program Wednesday amid national concerns that the work force of the future isnt being adequately trained in math, science and technology.
The announcement came at a luncheon sponsored by Region 9 and the Southwest Workforce Board.
The programs goal is to give students experiential education and hands-on learning opportunities in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math, said Christine Rasmussen, Region 9 project consultant for the program.
Were going to do our best to make sure its a student who is high-performing and very interested, she said.
One of the first participants, a student from Ignacio High School, began his internship Tuesday at Bayfield Automotive, Region 9 Executive Director Ed Morlan said.
Alpine Bank is assisting the program.
The bank was very willing to help get this organized and get it all out, Morlan said. Were trying to do it in all five counties.
The program will reimburse businesses $1,000 if they hire high school juniors and seniors and pay them at least minimum wage, Rasmussen said.
Marc Katz, co-founder of Mercury Payment Systems, will donate $10,000 via the Marc and Jane Katz Family Trust Fund to the program, which will help staff the program, Morlan said.
In July, Katz donated $100,000 to Durango School District 9-R, half of which was dedicated to helping pass a tax question on the November ballot.
The other $50,000 went toward busing high school students to Southwest Colorado Community College in Mancos for elective classes no longer offered at Durango High School.
We feel education is the foundation of a healthy community, Jane Katz said. With decreasing budgets, theres a real need for local support of programs that are being threatened.