Where Are The Workers For Economic Growth?

22 Aug, 2018

With unemployment low across Maryland, workforce development becomes more challenging. Where can we find the workers for economic growth? In Kent County, we are taking steps to maximize our local resources, focusing on summer youth employment, Washington College Innovation Internships, and an ambitious program to engage and train disconnected youth.

  • Summer Youth Employment. Five years ago, Kent County’s Human Resources started a program to recruit and place 10 high-school student interns in summer jobs in Kent County government. That effort has now been upgraded to include college students from Kent County and broadened to place interns in local industrial and non-profit organizations as well as within government. Candidates are asked to write a brief essay on their goals, which are then used to find placements relevant to each student’s interests—a mechanical engineering student with Dixon Valve, a geology student with the Environmental Education Center, a student interested in medicine placed with the Health Department’s adult daycare center, an electrical engineering student with the County’s IT department. The students—regardless of where they are placed—are paid by the County, the program directly benefits the entire community as well as the students. It also increases the likelihood that these young people will return to work and live in Kent County.

  • Washington College Innovation Internships. Washington College is a premier liberal arts college that draws students from across the U.S. and abroad. It is also a major employer and a huge economic and cultural asset for Kent County. As part of its academic effort, the college runs a program that places its students in local internships relevant to their interests and for which they can receive academic credit as well as getting paid. Students typically work about 10 hours a week during the academic year, and many employers find that their web and social media skills—and sometimes more specialized skills—are a real asset. Interns say that the program benefits them both financially and via the work experience, building contacts and a resume that will help them further their post-college career. It also gives the students a much closer relationship with the County, increasing the odds that they might want to live and work here.
  • Reconnect for Life. There are about 200 young people in Kent County between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and not working. Youth disconnection comes with a staggering cost—Kent County annually loses an estimated $340 thousand dollars in taxes and $1.9 million in earnings from these individuals. The Reconnect for Life program, operated by Maryland Rural Development Corporation and funded by the Local Management Board, seeks to re-engage these “opportunity” youths in school, training programs, and employment. It builds rapport with these youth, seeks to support and stabilize those with unmet basic needs, engages them in 1-day and then 3-day workshops that build specific skills, and eventually connects them to existing resources and job opportunities. The Local Management Board also hopes to partner to expand afterschool programs—from chess and Spanish clubs to hands-on activities like coding and “app” development—that can act as preventive interventions to keep young people engaged.

Kent County is doing something about workforce development.  Come join us.

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