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Out of the Classroom, Into Careers

July 08, 2019

For many young people, career paths can be limited by what they are already familiar with: It’s hard to learn skills and prepare for jobs that you don’t know exist. But, seeing professionals in action through field trips can introduce students to possibilities for their future while helping them make connections with professionals.

VPP’s Ready for Work initiative is a cross-sector collaboration with Prince George’s County government, Prince George’s County Public Schools, business, philanthropy and nonprofits to ensure that young people in Prince George’s County, MD graduate high school with the knowledge, skills and resources to be ready for careers and college.

As part of Ready for Work, we recently took students from our three focus high schools – Suitland, High Point and Oxon Hill High Schools – to visit employers at leading businesses in the Greater Washington region. Students had a chance to explore the different departments and careers that create successful organizations, giving them a glimpse at potential career paths for themselves.

Some of these employers also offer internships for students through the Prince George’s County Summer Youth Enrichment Program. Students who attend Ready for Work field trips get a leg-up when seeking summer internships from these employers – and those who receive them gain meaningful work experiences.

Students visited three employers: Kaiser Permanente, Industrial Bank and Capital One. Each one brought different lessons on starting a career.

Kaiser Permanente brought students to their Center for Total Health to learn about different careers in healthcare. The trip began with discussion and trivia about health, followed by a tour of the Center. Through exhibits, students learned about the various – sometimes invisible – factors that affect everyday physical and mental health. These factors go into the consideration process for healthcare organizations when deciding where to build hospitals and what these centers need.

To get students thinking about all the jobs that make healthcare run, Kaiser hosted a “shark tank” exercise: Students from Suitland, High Point and Frederick Douglass High Schools were split into groups that allowed them to meet and work with students from other schools. Together, they designed a proposal and plan for building a new hospital in Prince George’s County. Groups then pitched plans to a panel of their peers: students from Oxon Hill High School.

Kaiser provided the groups with resources and coaching to put together a plan, and then trained panels on the criteria for judging pitches.

Kyra Higgins of Suitland High School is part of the nursing program, which motivated her to go on the field trip. “My favorite part was all of us coming together as a group to find how we can build a business. There were some failures here and there,” Kyra said of the pitching activity. “I love that [Kaiser] gave us advice on what we can do next time. I want to thank you guys because I learned a lot I can use later on.”

The field trip to Capital One also brought together students from Suitland, Oxon Hill and High Point High Schools. Employees shared the company’s vision of going beyond a focus on data and finance to becoming a leader in technology.

Devon Rollins, Senior Director of the Cyber Intelligence Team, emphasized lessons such as “doing small things well” to build good habits and discipline for a career. Through his personal story, Rollins, who is also the Capital One McLean Chapter Lead for Blacks in Tech, told students that anyone could learn to code and that people who work in technology come from any background.

Sitting in group tables with employees from Capital One, students had an opportunity to ask employees in different departments about their career and role. Through a networking exercise, students tried out prompts to learn about graphic design, customer service, project management, computer programming careers and more. Thanks to a rock-paper-scissors competition acting as an icebreaker, students felt comfortable conversing with employees.

Industrial Bank gave students more insight into financial careers. Rather than coming together as part of one large field trip, students from High Point, Oxon Hill and Suitland High Schools visited the bank in three separate sessions.

Each trip began with students learning important skills for their own lives. Jacqueline Boles, Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Banking at Industrial Bank, led financial literacy classes that students could begin thinking about and applying to their own lives immediately. Students in business courses enjoyed learning about different kinds of loans, investments and ways that the local bank supports entrepreneurs.

Members of different departments within Industrial Bank also spoke with students, sharing information about careers in building services, marketing, human resources and IT.

As a community bank, Industrial Bank feels a commitment to the local people they serve, including the students on the trip. President and CEO B. Doyle Mitchell, Jr. – who is also a member of VPP’s Board –encouraged students to work hard in school and stay committed to pursuing their career goals.

As one student from Oxon Hill High School described, “I came to this field trip because I wanted to learn more about what kind of jobs I might be interested in. I learned a lot today – I never realized all of the different departments and types of jobs that you can have in just one company.” The Ready for Work field trips are designed to help students discover new career pathways and learn more about the wide range of possibilities they may be interested in exploring during the critical time of high school when young people are considering their future goals and how they can get there. VPP was as excited and inspired by the trips as the student participants and we are looking forward to more in the next school year!