Since former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III revamped the county’s summer youth work program in 2012, more than 16,000 youths have gained employment, with gross wages at $9.3 million.
According to the 2018 annual report, the county’s Youth@Work/Summer Youth Enrichment Program (SYEP) enjoyed its highest numbers ever, with 3,300 teens obtaining employment at more than 100 public and private sector businesses.
Program managers, coordinators and volunteers hope to increase those figures for this year’s program.
“You’re starting your journey for employment,” County Council Chairman Todd Turner (D-District 4) told a roomful of youth and parents in attendance at the SYEP’s Jan. 5 kickoff event at Prince George’s Community College in Largo. “It’s one of those experiences you will remember for a lifetime.”
Before the youth ages 15 to 19 can begin working this summer, they must attend and complete job readiness training that begins this month with classes offered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at various high schools in the county. The estimated student-teacher ratio is 18 to 1.
This year’s program will also provide sessions from noon to 4 p.m. The six-week summer employment begins June 24 until Aug. 2.
Those ages 15-17 earn $8.90 an hour and others age 18 and 19 receive $11.50 an hour for jobs in various fields such as technology, health care and agriculture. Some of the participating employers are Six Flags, Pepco and the county’s parks and recreation department.
Parents received reminders the program assists their children to transition into adulthood, so students are responsible to call or email with questions about the program.
Advice for parents listed on the Youth@Work site through the community includes:
• Ensure their children attend all the face-to-face and online sessions.
• Ensure they arrive at a session 15 minutes early.
• Ensure they understand and appreciate the program’s value for their future.
Cecilia Knox, who works at the community college and provides training sessions for students, said federal law doesn’t allow for instructors to discuss a student’s progress in the program.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows student privacy on academic records “when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.”
Some of the coursework will be graded, Knox said. In addition, career-development, life-skills and job-training opportunities are sponsored by the college.
In regards to certain careers, Knox offered a straightforward suggestion.
“Do not steer the young people — let them choose,” she said. “I tend to say what’s truthful.”