Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III recalled when about 300 youth obtained employment in various county agencies through a summer youth program established six years ago.
Approximately 3,300 youth will obtain skills this summer at 105 businesses in the public and private sector, the highest number of young employees and organizations ever.
“It’s not just about finding summer jobs for kids,” Baker said during a June 8 event at Six Flags America to thank businesses. “The real thing is providing them with opportunities to see what careers they want to go into. Providing life skills and solve real problems in the county in real time.”
Before youth ages 15 to 19 can apply for jobs through the county’s Youth@Work/Summer Youth Enrichment Program (SYEP), they must complete a readiness training program. The 24-hour course at Prince George’s Community College follows seven core principles: attitude, appearance, appreciation, accountability, attendance, ambition and acceptance.
The six-week entry-level positions listed on the SYEP website include accounting/budget aide, laborer and day camp assistant.
Six Flags, the first company to participate, will provide about 1,500 jobs ranging from ride operators to lifeguards.
Rick Howarth, Six Flags park president, said the company will expand its information technology program for at least 30 more county youth.
“This is a win-win for the community,” he said. “The youth are making wages and creates tax dollars for the county as well.”
Caleb Carter, 16, will work in the county’s Office of Information Technology to assist others in public speaking.
“It’s like a thrill,” said the 11th-grader at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville. “At first you’re nervous and shaking, but then you take one deep breath and you’re good.”
He participated in the summer program last year to help produce an Amazon Alexa to help public school students with math, Spanish and other topics.
“He is a totally different person,” said Caleb’s mother, Dian Carter, an assistant principal at Bishop McNamara. “I am so proud of him. I appreciate the work of the [county’s] Office of Technology has done to put into these students.”
The program allowed him to set his sights on attending college and possibly follow in his sister’s footsteps and attend Towson University to major in business and minor in sports medicine.
“We’re going to keep working on him so he goes to Howard [University],” Baker said in a good-natured nudge to Caleb to consider attending his alma mater.
The county’s summer program seeks to prepare youth for future employment and also do constructive work when school’s out. However, a 2017 report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows the teen workforce for those ages 16 to 19 has declined beyond 34 percent through 2024.
One reason cited in the report was “an increased emphasis toward school and attending college…reflected in higher enrollment; more summer school attendance; and more strenuous coursework.”
Although parents and school officials push for college and post-secondary education, Howarth said training that youths receive in the summer pays off in the future.
“These kids are coming out way more polished than I did when I was coming out of Prince George’s County Public Schools system,” he said. “That’s exactly what we need here.”