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PORTLAND -- The job market has been tough for a lot of adults over the past few years, but it s been especially hard on local teens.

The employment rate for the teenage demographic is low, with only one out of every four teens holding a job.

That's one of the reasons local leaders have pushed hard to keep paid summer internship programs alive.

Programs like SummerWorks give high-school students and recent grads an opportunity to work in high-demand careers.

Giving them that work experience, giving them that opportunity to see into their own future in a lot of ways, is an incredible experience, said Raffaele Timarchi, who helps coordinate the SummerWorks program for Multnomah County.

More than 500 teens will participate by going to work for the county, the city of Portland or other professional agencies.

De'Ontria McFerson, who is participating in the program for a second year, said this internship allows her to make much-needed contacts for the future.

This gives me a chance to follow my dreams and do whatever I need to do to get to college and help pay for college fees, McFerson said.

Kenneth Urom, 17, had a similar attitude toward the opportunity. I think the skills I'm going to learn, I'm going to use them in any job, said Urom. The personal skills first of all, I'm going to need in any job I go to. The contacts I'm going to make, I'm going to need them as well.

The teens participating in the program will work 180 hours this summer. All will get paid for their hard work and most will also earn school credit.

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