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Baltimore County seeks to expand Summer Youth Employment Program

Baltimore County is now accepting business and participant applications for its Summer Youth Employment Program with a goal of expanding the program by at least 50%.

The Summer Youth Employment Program, or SYEP, offers workforce training and job opportunities to participants from 14 to 21 years old at participating public- and private-sector businesses for six weeks from July 6 through Aug. 14.

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“We are committed to providing more of our young people with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in a statement. “We know from research that students who have summer jobs are more likely to do well in school, less likely to be arrested for violent crimes, and have an easier time finding a job as an adult.”

Baltimore County’s Department of Economic and Workforce Development is soliciting potential employers to sponsor participants by either funding their wages at selected worksites through payments to Baltimore County government or by providing a work experience.

“We’re trying to encourage employers to start to create a quality pipeline for their workforce by becoming a vested partner with Baltimore County,” said Kevin Armstrong, manager of Baltimore County Youth Services.

Olszewski’s transition team recommended offering more summer work opportunities for high school students, according to a news release. Armstrong, who was brought on last year to ramp up the program after serving as the private-sector coordinator for Baltimore City’s YouthWorks program, said the county’s program will be more closely modeled after YouthWorks, which in prior years saw a sharp rise in interest from businesses and city teens, and has successfully served as a career gateway for some participants.

Baltimore County does not track rates of youth unemployment, county spokesman Sean Naron said. The statewide average unemployment rate in Maryland for 16- to 24-year-olds in 2019 was 9.8%, on par with the national average of 9.7%, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Eligible teens and young adults must be county residents, and provide identifying documentation like a birth certificate and Social Security card. The county plans to increase participation from 194 youths in 2019 to 300 this summer and boost the number of employers from 64 to 100 businesses, Armstrong said.

Baltimore County also will seek to hire through the program at least two participants for each county agency during the six-week period, Naron said. Those who are accepted will earn the Maryland minimum wage of $11 an hour for a maximum of 25 hours per week, and five work hours per day.

“Personally, it gave me my first job experience,” said 15-year-old Towson High School student Lola Cavers, who participated in the summer program in 2019. “I think that is a really valuable thing for any high schooler.”

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Working in the county’s Department of Economic and Workforce Development, Cavers said she performed administrative tasks for the summer youth program, and is returning this summer to, she hopes, help manage payroll in the department.

She “has no clue, to be honest,” what she wants to do when she graduates high school, but “I think working in government, after that experience, would definitely be a big one for me; I want to explore that in my career," Cavers said.

Participants also will attend job readiness training to learn interviewing skills, a work ethic, conflict resolution and job retention strategies before they’re paired with employers that match their career goals or interests, Armstrong said.

Teens are also matched with employers based on proximity; Baltimore County will provide transportation for the first two weeks of employment, Naron said. The Maryland Transit Authority, which is signing on as a new employer for the program, will offer transportation to its employees for the full six weeks.

In the past, employers have included Baltimore County Public Schools, Community College of Baltimore County, Brick Bodies gym, Baltimore County Department of Corrections, First Financial Credit Union, the Salvation Army Middle River Boys and Girls Club and LifeBridge Health at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown.

LifeBridge Health will again this summer offer work opportunities in several Northwest Hospital departments, including shadowing opportunities with anesthesiologists; working with certified nurse technicians in patient care; helping medical students with administrative tasks or working in human resources; or getting hands-on experience in the hospital’s outpatient clinic, according to Tara Boynton, a physician assistant coordinator with LifeBridge Health.

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Students who typically work at the hospital through the county’s summer work program are enrolled in magnet programs at the Northwest Academy of Health Sciences and Randallstown High School Academy of Health Professions, and train at the hospital during the academic year, Boynton said. Boynton expects 32 students to participate through the county’s employment program, but participation is open to those who aren’t enrolled in the magnet programs, she said.

“They’re actually getting integrated into the workforce at a very early age,” Boynton said. “Just being able to have that hands on clinical experience, it’s invaluable.”

In some cases, students have gone on to secure work beyond the end of the program, Naron said. Teens and young adults who wish to apply have until April 30; employers must apply by May 31.

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