ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - A local high school senior is gaining real-world experience at the APG South (Edgewood) Dial Central Office (DCO), part of the U.S. Army Signal Network Enterprise Center.

Ronald Burris is one of 51 teens participating in Family and MWR's HIRED! Program, which offers apprenticeships to students, ages 15 to 18.

During the summer, apprentices work eight-hour shifts, two days a week, assisting with basic, age-appropriate duties.

Burris has been shadowing telephone technicians as they troubleshoot phone connection issues. There are two DCOs on APG, one on APG North and one on APG South. The DCOs house the equipment needed to provide the landline phone services for the post.

"We are trying to give [Burris] a good vision of what all it takes for a phone to get dial tone," said Sharon Popp, Burris' mentor.

"From the wiring to the switch programing, to the cross connects on the main distribution frame, these are the things that are not seen by the end user. It is nice that someone gets to see what we do behind the scenes. He can see that this job takes teamwork and perseverance," said Popp, who called Burris an eager learner.

In addition to shadowing technicians, Burris has organized circuit packs and other supplies for the DCO.

Burris moved to Harford County in the spring and said he hoped to participate in HIRED! to learn a new skill and stay busy during the summer. He said he is interested in a career in criminal justice or information technology.

"Working in this area is a possibility," he said. "Since I have been here my interests have grown."

APG's HIRED! Coordinator Jay McKinney said the program gives teens an advantage because it exposes them to different careers before going to college or trade school.

"They are able to see what they like and what they don't like," he said, "all while gaining work experience that they can put on a resume and college application."

McKinney said his goal is to match apprentices with organizations that reflect their career interests.

"APG offers a wide range of science, technology, and medical careers," McKinney said. "Offering apprenticeships in these fields would provide invaluable experience for our teenagers."

About HIRED!

The HIRED! program offers a variety of job placements for teens of military and government civilians assigned to APG. To secure apprenticeships, candidates must achieve and maintain a 2.0 grade point average or higher before completing a pre-assessment and interviews with facility managers. Depending on the skills and interest teens show in these interviews, they are placed under the direct supervision of a designated on-site mentor who is responsible for tutoring his or her individual apprentices.

Career options in HIRED! include: education, child and/or youth development, marketing or graphic design, library and information science, food and beverage management, pet care education, information technology, sports studies and sports management. Students may participate in the program twice a year between the ages of 15 and 18.

Additional requirements for students include participating in career-prep enrichment activities like workshops on how to complete financial aid forms and scholarship applications. Students will also be expected to keep a journal of their experience.

"Teens will receive experience that will make them competitive in future job opportunities and college applications." McKinney said. "They will develop work and life skills, like customer service, and resume writing, that will be applicable to any job they might pursue in the future."

HIRED! is accepting teens for the fall term. During the fall, teens will work three hours a day, five days a week. To register for the fall term or to find out how to become a mentor, contact McKinney at jay.a.mckinney.naf@mail.mil, or call 410-278-3250.