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Wasatch County

Heber Valley Chamber to launch employee scholarship incentive program

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KPCW
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The scholarship program proposed by the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce is designed to bring young people into the workforce to fill vacancies at Wasatch County businesses.

Businesses in Wasatch County are in need of employees, and the chamber of commerce believes high-schoolers can help. 

With businesses cutting hours and employees working overtime due to labor shortages, one way the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce hopes to support employers is by offering to match student-employees’ savings in scholarship funds.

The “Thrive Hive” program is still in its planning stage. Generally, the idea includes students pledging to work for a local business for two years, and if they remain in good standing, the chamber would match their contributions in a student savings account. The chamber estimates it would cap contributions at around $2,000 per student per year.

“The hope is that when they leave the program, they have approximately $4,000 to go to school with,” Heber Valley Chamber Director Dallin Koecher says.

He hopes to give priority to those who can benefit the most from the program.

“You know, that’s not a ton of money to get you going, but it’s a good start,” he says. “We want to make sure this fits the students, so it’s any post-high-school education. So, if they want to go to welding school, great. If they want to become a plumber, great. If they want to go to a four-year university, wonderful. We just want to make sure that these students have post-high-school educations, and that they have some funds to make that happen.”

And Koecher says around a dozen businesses he pitched the idea to also supported the idea.

“They’ve all been really supportive, saying ‘That would be great.’ The benefit for businesses, they’re going to have employees that are going to be there, ideally, for two full years. They’re not going to have to worry about retraining a guy in six months or three weeks. The person’s committed during both the school season and the summer, so I think it’s an easy, low barrier to entrance for these businesses to participate,” he says.

He thinks restaurants, hotels and retail stores would benefit in particular from having new young workers.

The chamber just got an $80,000 grant from the Governor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, and the chamber will contribute $30,000 toward an initial fund of $110,000. That would allow the program to start out with 50 to 60 students, and Koecher hopes it can grow to around 100.

The goal is to launch before the end of the school year and recruit students as they begin summer break.

After the first year or two that the chamber already has funded, Thrive Hive would need continued financial support. Koecher says he might have participating businesses pay a yearly participation fee. It’ll also rely on more grants and donations and seek support from entities like Wasatch County, the school district, the Department of Workforce Services and Utah Valley University.

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