Preparing Our Youth to Be Ready for Work

August 23, 2017

In our competitive job market, more employers look for experience when making hiring decisions. While young men and women in school today will make up the workforce of tomorrow, too many young people are leaving school not fully prepared for successful employment. At VPP, we – and our investment partners – spend our time trying to address this challenge. We invest in organizations like Year Up-NCR and Urban Alliance to scale up their capacity to help more students. And, we lead collaborative efforts like our initiative Ready for Work: Champions for Career and College Ready Graduates in Prince George’s County that is designed to help more students graduate from high school career- and college-ready. As VPP’s President and CEO Carol Thompson Cole described in her June 29 President’s Perspective column, a key component of the Ready for Work strategy is giving students meaningful work experiences before they graduate.

We know that when young people get job experience at an early age, they are more likely to be employed and stay employed as adults. VPP was excited to not only support this important work through our investments, but also to walk the talk by hiring three young people as VPP interns this summer, including one from Ready for Work partner Prince George’s County’s Office of Human Resources Management Youth@Work/Summer Youth Enrichment Program.

As summer comes to a close, we sat down to talk to our interns (Christian, Sally and Udo) to get their perspectives on their time with us and how their experiences will support their future careers and aspirations.

Christian Bailey-Burke, 20, High Point, North Carolina, Harvard University

Sally Yu, 18, Washington, D.C., University of Maryland

Udo Osuagwu, 18, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Prince George’s Community College

What did you do during your internship at VPP this summer?

Christian: I focused on one particular project this summer. I was asked to review VPP documents and have conversations with staff across all of the VPP departments to process the various functions that are carried out on a daily basis at VPP. Then, I used what I learned to create a framework that I thought VPP could use going forward to improve efficiency. I learned that this project is called “process mapping” and it gave me insight on what everyone does.

Sally: I worked on entering data in Salesforce and QuickBooks and supported the organization’s business manager on a variety of needs for the office. She has a lot of tasks that she manages, so it was nice to be able to help her out.

Udo: I rotated around the different departments in the organization and completed a lot of different projects, including analyzing data trends. I pulled analytics from a survey and placed them in a PowerPoint and gave a presentation at Suitland High School for the Youth@Work meeting. I also pulled and analyzed data from VPP’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

What skills did you learn this summer that you think you can apply in the future?

Christian: One of the biggest skills that I learned was how to be self-driven to get the results and get what I need to do my job. I think that is very important in the workforce because nobody is going to hold your hand. I also learned about collaboration, which is important in philanthropy but also in business. That is something that I can take with me as I continue through school and my career.

Sally:  Organizing was a good skill that I learned that I can take with me to school and future internships. I wasn’t as organized before, but I’ve learned a lot this summer. Also, I’ve improved my communications skills and time management. Being in this environment has also helped me to think about dressing professionally and other professional standards, which is something that I’ve never done before working in an office setting. Working here this summer has made me feel freer. Before this, I worked in retail settings. Being in a different environment has been nice because I am able to work independently and work with Yvonne. The change of scenery and new experience has been great.

Why do you think internships are important for young people to think about whether they are in high school or in college like you?

Christian: I think it is good for all young people to have experience in the career path that they are interested in so they have an idea of what the commitment will be. I think it also provides them with valuable skills that they can apply to other areas just in case their dream job does not work out.

Sally:  It is great for resumes. Once I added my experience at VPP to my resume, I got a lot of attention and encouragement. Also, it is good for colleges to see that you’ve gotten the experience at an early age. It also opens you up to better jobs in the future because of the skills you learn.

Why do you think it is important for businesses to hire interns?

Sally:  I think that businesses can sometimes benefit from a helping hand to get certain tasks done. It is also a good thing for businesses to give back and give more knowledge to the future generation of workers.

Udo:  It is important for businesses to hire interns so they know about the pool of young talent that is out there and available to them in the future.

What advice would you give to students who are thinking about applying for internships?

Christian: One thing that I would tell students is to avoid imposter syndrome. They should be willing to go for whatever you want in life. Don’t be afraid.

Udo:  I would say to take advantage of any internship opportunity that you get because you never know what you would get out of it. I wasn’t sure in the beginning what I would learn by working at VPP, but it turned out that I was able to get exposure to what I’m interested in doing.

Any final thoughts on your overall internship experience at VPP?

Udo:  Interning helped me make connections with professionals who are currently working, which will be beneficial to me when I finish college and go into the work field. I also had the opportunity to get help with my resume, which will help me apply for other internships, programs, and jobs in the future. VPP is a great place to intern, and I really enjoyed my experience.

Sally:  VPP has really helped me grow a lot. I’m glad that I have been exposed to this kind of environment at this age. It would have been harder to adjust at an internship later but now that I have had the experience, I feel more confident going into an internship in the future. I love it here and I plan to come back as an intern again.

Christian: The people at VPP are amazing! It was always a warm environment every day, which made interning here so much more fulfilling. It has also been great working with Chuck this summer. I appreciate the time he took the time to share his experience working in business and consulting, which has opened me up to potentially pursuing a similar career in the future.

We wish Christian, Sally and Udo – and everyone getting ready to go back to school or pursue careers – the best in their futures. We at VPP are so proud to be part of a community committed to helping young men and women get the resources and support they need to build bright futures.

Learn more about our Ready for Work initiative.