In Magazine Article, News
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Read this article in the digital edition of Issue 1 2022.

The United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) shipyard has welcomed young talent from New Era Academy, a Baltimore City Public School, for the past five summers.

Sixteen- to 21-year-olds have the opportunity to experience hands-on training in a range of available vocations through New Era’s Transportation Technology (TransTech) Seagoing Pathways program. With mentorships that can open doors to exciting careers, the program shows students there are opportunities for well-paying careers directly from high school.

Captain Skwarek with interns

Captain Vincent Skwarek, Teresa Byrd, Elijah Dorsey, Gerald Gardner, Lamont McCloud

The USCG Yard is responsible for the construction, repair and renovation of vessels and equipment. Each year, it hires around 50 civilian employees, which is more of a challenge today than it has been historically. Facing an insufficient pipeline of tradespeople, hiring managers are fortunate that the internship program develops and retains a diverse and capable workforce at the Yard.

Captain Vincent Skwarek is the USCG Yard Commanding Officer. “One of the things that is very difficult, and more broadly that you’re seeing in the industry, is the challenge of finding folks to come in and work these types of jobs,” he said. “There aren’t large vocational programs as there were in the past 40-50 years, so we needed to make inroads within our area.”

In an agreement between the USCG and the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, up to 12 students per each eight-week internship are invited to participate through paid positions at the Yard. The internship program at New Era Academy began in the summer of 2017 and has trained 35 summer interns over the course of five summers.

“This allows us to have a stream of people that we know about who have performed well,” said Captain Skwarek. “It’s a look at how they’re going to do — eight weeks is a great look!”

Gerald Gardner is a painter helper at the Yard and was a New Era intern before being hired. He has already been promoted once and is one of 11 New Era Academy graduates who work full-time as civilian employees.

Rutherford with interns

NEA Internship Completion Ceremony, 2018, at the Maryland State House with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford

“It was a fun experience when I first got here,” he said. “So far, since I’ve been working here, I’ve been able to move into my own place.” He reports that the pay and benefits are good and that he is encouraging his brother, currently a student at New Era, to follow in his footsteps.

Elijah Dorsey was a direct hire from New Era Academy. Having been promoted twice in the two years since he first started at the Yard, he enjoys the pay involved in an advancing career. “It changed my life by 100%,” he said. He appreciates the financial stability of being able to afford his own transportation and a nice apartment, but also cautions, “The job’s not all about the money. You’ve got to come down here and work and take the job seriously.”

“The United States Coast Guard is a great partner by providing opportunities for summer internships, many of which have led to full-time employment,” said Katrina Jones, Acting Program Manager for Education and Stakeholder Engagement at the Maryland Port Administration (MPA). “We are very grateful to the funders who help make this possible, including Baltimore’s YouthWorks and the New Era Academy Maritime Advisory Board. Two of the Maritime Advisory Board’s greatest champions were the late U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings and Helen Delich Bentley.”

Captain Skwarek is already looking forward to the new batch of interns in 2022. “The Coast Guard Yard is committed to maintaining its relationship with the City of Baltimore and the TransTech program,” he said.

Want to Host an Intern?

New Era also hosts PTECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School), where students earn an associate’s degree from Baltimore City Community College along with their high school diploma. To learn how your organization can host New Era Academy interns, contact Assistant Principal TaNisha Cleveland at tcleveland@bcps.k12.md.us.