- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

With the fragile economy, applications for summer youth employment are high in Prince George’s County and Alexandria. The Youth Employment Services program in Prince George’s County logged more than 4,000 applications this spring. The online application process in the county has closed.

However, work force development officials for the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp. hope the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama in February will present better opportunities for extended youth employment.

“We expect to see an immediate effect from the recovery act. Usually, we had funding for year around programs but very little for the summer. This is the first time in 10 years we have received this much money,” said Patricia White, executive director of the development corporation’s workforce services division.

The additional recovery act funds allowed Maryland and Virginia officials to extend the eligibility age for youth recovery funds to age 24, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.

“We are in a really good position this year. Despite the economy, we see this as an opportunity to really make an impact in the life of a youth this summer. I feel we can keep a lot of them out of trouble,” said Marcita Bently-Pinkston, assistant director for the development agency.

The Prince George’s County summer work program, Knowledge Equals Youth Success (KEYS), operates a structured and supervised work experience program helping youths build job skills. It also helps young people make decisions about college, trade fields and careers in government, education and health care.

KEYS received 900 applications for 300 positions, which include clerical, summer counseling and administration positions at the University of Maryland, the Prince George’s school system, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Dimensions Health Care system.

Jessica Crumble was among hundreds of youths who was helped by Aliya Canton last month during a Career Day Expo at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro.

Also benefiting from the federal stimulus funding is Alexandria’s TeensWork program. It offers jobs in the public sector for youths with no work experience and those with disabilities. Private-sector jobs are available for those whose family household income is less than $45,000.

Teens 16 and older can get job-search assistance and placement through TeensWork. The program provides occupational experiences in food service, retail and technology, said Lissette Pippy, youth-program administrator for TeensWork.

Similar to the TeensWork program, the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce, which has more than 900 members, recently partnered with Arbor Education and Training to enhance employment opportunities for youths in the county.

“The chamber was eager to do anything to provide support for the residents of Prince George’s County. As a result, our clients have been exposed to employers throughout the region, while gaining invaluable professional skills in real-world situations,” said the chamber’s project director, Nicole Peter.

The Corporate Office of Landover, for example, which provides virtual as well as permanent office space, will provide summer interns with positions for its front desk and legal services, as well as a research assistant for a medical supply company.

“We have received several people interested in a position,” said Richard Perry, managing partner. “However, we are getting an increased number of older individuals due to the economy.”

Odell B. Ruffin is a freelance writer and photographer living in Prince George’s County.

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