(TNS) -- Growing up on the Northeast Side, Kasey Wilson was a nerd.
But thanks to training funded by $10 million that Franklin County is spending this year on summer youth programs, she's become a computer code-writing whiz in her senior year of college and is looking at a bright future in a growing field.
"It was Tech Corps that got me interested in programming," Wilson, 20, said.
Tech Corps is among local agencies that are receiving county money this year for summer job training programs for teens and young adults. This year, it gets $1.7 million from Franklin County to train 400 youths. The youths are paid for taking part in the program, where they learn real-life job skills.
Some work as lifeguards and other stereotypical summer jobs for teens, but more and more, the program produces students who intern with businesses and governments.
The $10 million provides eight to 10 weeks of job training for 2,500 young people at 70 locations across Franklin County. That money pays for student and staff salaries and costs to run the program.
"With Tech Corps, you also got paid for learning," Wilson said of the 2014 summer she spent there. "Tech Corps was my first job."
The county job program aims to help two groups of youths. One is 14- and 15-year-olds who are paid $8.15 an hour for a minimum of 200 hours worked. The other is ages 16-24, who are paid $10 an hour for a minimum of 300 hours. Eligibility is based on income and targets those eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
"It is an earning and learning program," said Joy Bivens, director of Franklin County's Jobs & Family Services department. She should know. She is the product of a similar program when she was a teen.
"This is not just a fluff opportunity," Bivens said.
Wilson's father always had computers around the house, so she quickly became interested in computer hardware. But she knew little about computer programming and coding until she went through the summer program.
"When we got there," Wilson said, "they told us we would be designing websites. That really interested me."
The program teaches participants to design real web pages to handle e-commerce for mock companies. "All of this has to be functional," Tech Corps Director Lisa Chambers said.
Wilson was so good that she was asked to return to teach the program. This summer, the program led to an internship at JPMorgan Chase, where she is on a team building the financial company a mobile app.
The return on investment, Franklin County officials said, is exposing teens to careers that will help them stay in this area and become taxpaying citizens. In addition to teaching them real-life skills such as being on time, doing a job and responsibility, it keeps them out of trouble in the summer.
"It reduces the likelihood of trouble that idle time can create," said county Administrator Kenneth Wilson, who is not related to Kasey Wilson. He noted that the county's summer youth employment program is the largest in the state.
Tech Corps is so popular that it accepted 112 students for its 100 spots months ago.
"No experience is necessary," Chambers said, "because we are building their experience. We are building their resumes."
The kids learn computer language, Chambers said, but they're also learning what it's like to work with other people.
"The kids say the tech skills are easy. The teamwork and depending on others is the tough part," Chambers said.
The program is so successful that 83 of the 100 students last year earned college credit for their summer work from Franklin University.
"We want to move students from being great consumers of technology to being great builders and developers of technology," Chambers said.
©2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.