Walter L. Simmons (right), president and CEO of Employ Prince George's, talks about a new program geared toward residents ages 18 to 24 at the county's Youth Career Center in Suitland, Maryland, on Aug. 29. (Robert Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Walter L. Simmons (right), president and CEO of Employ Prince George's, talks about a new program geared toward residents ages 18 to 24 at the county's Youth Career Center in Suitland, Maryland, on Aug. 29. (Robert Roberts/The Washington Informer)

As Prince George’s County officials tout the majority-Black jurisdiction as Maryland’s top producer of job growth over the past two years, a county program seeks to reach even more residents.

Employ Prince George’s, a quasi-governmental agency, recently conducted an open house at its American Job Center in Largo. It also launched a Youth Career Center in Suitland exclusively for those ages 18 to 24 who either dropped out of high school, are not enrolled in secondary education or are unemployed.

The organization previously served under the workforce services division under the county’s Economic Development Corp., but will become its own entity with more than 50 staffers strictly focusing on jobs.

“It’s the start of the new way we employ residents,” said Walter L. Simmons, president and CEO of Employ Prince George’s. “The goal is to leave nobody behind.”

The agency pushes for at least 20,000 people to receive job training and secure future employment. Simmons said when factoring in the county’s targeted age demographic, Blacks and the underemployed, the figure rises to 46,000.

Walter L. Simmons (right), president and CEO of Employ Prince George’s, poses with Sydney Harrison, a clerk of the Prince George’s County’s Circuit Court, inside the county’s Youth Career Center in Suitland, Maryland, on Aug. 29. (Robert Roberts/The Washington Informer)As Prince George’s County officials tout the majority-Black jurisdiction as Maryland’s top producer of job growth over the past two years, a county program seeks to reach even more residents.

But with only a $750,000 budget, it will need some assistance.

Eckerd Connects, a national nonprofit headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, will help provide workforce development services for young adults between 18 to 24 years old. Employ Prince George’s promotes the program as the only one in Maryland to specifically work with that age group.

The services it will provide include GED assistance, financial literacy training and job placement support in industries such as health care, construction and information technology.

According to a participant handbook, each person must adhere to an attendance policy and behavior standards, including arriving by 9 a.m. for any class or training session, abstaining from cellphone use except during breaks and lunchtime, and following a dress code (pants below the waistline, low-cut blouses or shirts and flip-flops are prohibited).

Suzanne Foran, vice president of operations for Eckerd in Long Island, New York, said the program uses the word “youth” based on how the level of education and economics has changed over the years. By June 30, 2019, the center hopes to serve 75 people and another 100 to 150 the following fiscal year.

“Young people need more support to be able to get through to self-sufficiency,” she said Aug. 29 at the center in Suitland. “Although they are adults, they still need the guidance and support services to get them on that path to maturity.”

As for the other job seekers, Employ Prince George’s allows local nonprofit organizations to help in the process.

For instance, they can join the “community network” and receive assistance from Employ Prince George’s for groups that seek to help domestic violence survivors, immigrants or single fathers.

Residents can offer their time to mentor job seekers, facilitate a resume-writing workshop, provide basic computer training and other skills.

The agency has career centers in Largo and Laurel, with plans to open another in the southern part of the county.

For those who aren’t able to travel to any other the centers, Simmons said the agency will train community leaders on workforce development services.

The agency plans to conduct an expungement clinic and job fair for returning citizens in November with Maryland Legal Aid and Tree of Life Ministries in Clinton.

“If we can increase each person’s livable wage, then we can make a better economy,” Simmons said. “We improve our schools. We decrease the crime rate. We decrease our poverty rate. Everything that we think about is intertwined through the income of our job seekers. We can make a better county.”

For more information, go to www.employpg.org or call 301-618-8400.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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