Chyna Flowers will answer phones, file documents and other work this summer at the Prince George’s County Office of Human Resources Management, while Justin McNeil will utilize technology to enhance communities as an intern for the county’s Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement.
The two college students sat among hundreds of their peers at Prince George’s Community College’s student center in Largo on Thursday, June 23 during an orientation program for the county’s “Youth@Work” initiative, which aims to help thousands of teens join the work force this summer.
“This is not just a summer job,” said County Executive Rushern Baker, who spoke briefly to the 1,800 high school and college students in attendance. “What we hope you will get out of this is an insight into what career opportunities you have in the future.
“For us as a county, we hope you give us ideas on how we can make the place where you live and your parents live better,” Baker said.
The county’s Summer Youth Enrichment Program started four years ago, about the same time Baker instituted the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative to improve areas that struggle with blight, crime and other societal ills. One of the summer program’s main goals is to get youth working to boost their intellect and not aimlessly roaming the streets.
Stephanye R. Maxwell, director of the county’s human resources office, said the summer program began with about 300 to 500 youths ages 15 to 19 working strictly in county government.
When private-sector businesses and nonprofit organizations joined the program last summer, about 2,900 jobs became available. This year’s goal of 3,000 will be attained, Maxwell said.
“We had 300 to 500 positions and would get 4,000 applications,” she said. “The county executive was like, ‘We have to serve [young people] better,’ but we can’t do it alone. That’s where the whole collaboration came in from the school system, [Prince George’s] Park and Planning, the community college with the training component and private sector. That’s where we get 3,000.”
Before the students embarked on their work assignments, they received a new, nearly 50-page employee orientation handbook.
Debra Arrington, with the county Office of Human Resources Management’s employee and labor division, explained some of the priorities, such as attendance, tardiness and professional conduct.
According to the handbook, the students aren’t permitted to use county computers or other electronic devices for charitable fundraising, selling products and instant messaging through social media sites. The handbook even outlines the process on how to file a complaint of harassment.
McNeil, 19, a Towson University sophomore who studies chemistry, returned to the summer program to increase his technology skills as he pursues a career in pharmacy. Last year, he helped navigate a robot to identify potholes in Oxon Hill. Once recognized, the potholes were registered with the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement and repaired.
McNeil will be work alongside five of his peers this summer in the county’s Office of Information Technology to help improve one of the TNI neighborhoods.
Flowers, a junior at Bowie State University, said she gained skills last summer that she underestimated: typing and filing paperwork.
“My typing was slow when I first started,” said Flowers, 19, who’s majoring in government. “It’s much better now. I now file all my homework and classwork. Filing made me keep everything organized. I had a great experience the first time. They made me feel more than just a summer intern.”
Besides working eight hours a day for six weeks starting July 5, each student can apply for three county government career days. However, only 100 can register for each session and participate in one of the following occupations:
- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, or STEAM, on July 21;
- public safety on July 28; and
- health and human services and education on Aug. 4.
“I hope this program can give me experience in the health sciences field that I will be doing this summer here at the college,” said Amber Stanford, 17, who will enter the 12th grade in August at the Academy of Health Sciences at the community college. “I like everything that I’m learning in school, but I’m not really sure if [health sciences] is for me, so hopefully this program can show it to me.”