SUITLAND — Employ Prince George’s launched the state’s first-ever Youth Career Center at their open house on Wednesday, Aug. 30.
Formerly known as the Workforce Services Division, Employ Prince George’s launched on July 1 as a way to connect job seekers and businesses throughout the county.
Now the Youth Career Center will specifically target 18 to 24-year-old job seekers providing them with opportunities to employment, training, career readiness, financial literacy and other supportive services to move them forward and ensure a pathway to a long-term career.
“Eighteen to 24-year-olds who are unemployed and not in school experience some of the highest levels of unemployment,” said Employ Prince George’s President Walter Simmons. “Sometimes five to six times higher than the county unemployment rate. We have areas where the unemployment of 18 to 24-year-olds is up to 35 percent while our county unemployment is only four percent.”
The Youth Career Center has been in discussion for about a year now. In collaboration with the county executive’s office and the Department of Family Services, Employ Prince George’s wanted a way to increase opportunities for 18 to 24-year-olds. They then partnered with Eckerd Connects, one of the leading youth service providers in the nation, to start the new project.
Established in 1968, Eckerd Connects provides fundamental life education and workforce skills to improve individual and organizations through education, coaching and mentoring. They are one of the largest nonprofit service providers in the U.S. and operate in 20 states and Washington D.C. Through the Youth Career Center, young people in Prince George’s County now have those services at their fingertips.
“Our hope is that we can assist these young people with reaching self-sufficiency and entering in-demand occupations within the community,” said Vice President of Operations for Eckerd Connects Suzanne Foran.
During the Open House, about 20 members of the community gathered at the Youth Services Center for a presentation led by Program Manager Karen Clark on the services the center will be providing.
The center will provide a variety of programs such as leadership development training which focuses on external and internal motivation, financial literacy which will be taught in partnership with Prince George’s Community College and a three-day emotional intelligence workshop which will show how to translate negative emotions into positive behavior.
They will offer many pieces of training which can lead to certifications, such as the customer service and sales training where people can get a credential from the National Retail Federation.
Most of the training sessions will require a high school diploma or GED, which will provide an incentive for students to finish high school. There will also be opportunities to work towards a college education. The center will offer college tours, college application workshops, online training and financial assistance.
The center is also going to provide some support services in collaboration with organizations such as Adam’s House, a nonprofit that supports county residents who are transitioning into the community from incarceration. They will provide employment-related financial assistance, need-based items such as clothing and food and transportation and childcare assistance. There will be paid job shadowing, placement assistance and a one year follow up after finding a job.
“Our goal is to place people in high growth occupations such as construction, hospitality, retail and healthcare,” Clark said. “What we can train for are the types of jobs we can place people in…for example, if someone wants to go into cosmetology, it’s not part of our programming. We want to make sure our training dollars are fully utilized.”
During the presentation, there were questions from those attending about how Employ Prince George’s is planning to reach out to community members as many of them and those they knew were not initially aware that the Youth Career Center was created.
Because of this, the staff is planning to increase their marketing from social media advertising that will begin in a week, to radio ads, orientations, open houses and meeting personally with organizations.
With the school year getting started, “high schools are our first target point,” Clark said. They plan to put a strong focus on connecting with juniors and seniors to get them interested as well as meeting with school counselors and people personnel workers.
“It’s an ambitious effort,” said Adena Massiae who attended the open house. “It’s going to cover a lot of aspects that are lacking for young people. Some of them don’t know how to dress or how to act in the workforce. This program tackles all aspects of it. It’s beneficial because if they go in confident, knowing how to dress and think, they will achieve success.”
The Youth Career Center has already started to make progress before they officially got launched. After two orientations so far, they already have five to six people scheduled for their program. The goal is to help connect them with the over 10,000 jobs in this region and move them forward through whatever barrier they may have.
“It provides a specific bridge for youth 18 to 24-years-old,” Simmons said. “It provides them with the tools and resources that direct connections to the jobs in this region. We look forward to this partnership, and this is the first youth career center in the state of Maryland and one of the few in the country. We think this is going to be a national backed process to help change the lives and create career pathways to the middle class for 18 to 24-year-olds.”