By Jenni Williams, USAG RedstoneAugust 21, 2009
The Garrison is at a critical point. Of its government employees, 28 percent are eligible for retirement, and many more will be eligible within the next few years. Due to the aging work force, preparations must be made for the future.
The mission of the Garrison is to "continuously (provide) superior installation operations support and quality of life to enable Team Redstone's mission success."
Besides the aging work force, Base Realignment and Closure will require more employees in order to accomplish this mission.
BRAC will cause an estimated 15 percent growth in the number of people on the Arsenal, and will increase facilities square footage by about 20 percent. According to Curtis Clark, deputy to the Garrison commander, the Garrison work force needs revitalization.
Clark's goal is to provide young people the opportunity to experience a real work environment. He recognizes the benefit in younger employees working with more experienced employees, and hopes that this program will teach them to "appreciate the value of hard work and know what it takes to succeed."
This summer, the student employee program was expanded to include more than 60 summer employees, ranging in age from 16 to 27.
"One of the beauties of this program is that we have high school students and college graduates (working together)," Joe Davis, director of public works, said.
The Garrison benefits in several ways by emphasizing the student program. First, the program is an opportunity to renew the work force. Younger employees not only provide inexpensive labor, but they also energize the current employees and provide a fresh perspective to challenges.
"We like to give them challenges and see what happens," Clark said. Often, students are capable of more than their supervisors expected.
Second, it gives directors an opportunity to evaluate the students over a short period of time, enabling them to make future decisions about whether to employ that student or not. Students who strive for excellence stand out, and the directors and other employees notice. Excellence is more than work performance. Clark particularly emphasized dressing appropriately.
"I pay attention to dress," he said. "You need to dress for success."
Third, this younger generation comes equipped with a skill set their older counterparts didn't have initially. Because of today's emphasis on technology, students have computer knowledge that allows them to have an impact almost immediately. "Production is just astonishing," Davis said.
Besides the benefits to the Garrison, the student program has obvious benefits for the students themselves. Ask any of the students what his or her favorite part of the program is, and money will be near the top of the list. In addition to their pay, students learned valuable lessons.
First, students are able to use this time to determine what interests them and what careers they may want to pursue. Even the high school students were able to use this work experience to guide them toward what they want to study in college.
Scott Funderburg, a senior at New Century Technology High School, reinforced his decision to study computer science. "I was pretty sure that is what I wanted to do, but now I am sure that is what I want to go into," he said.
Students can also use this opportunity to network. Each division within the Garrison depends on the other divisions to function and because of this students gain experience in more departments than just their own. This gives them ample opportunity to meet other directors and employees. Students are also able to network among themselves by building friendships that may provide them with future job opportunities.
Finally, the student employee program provides valuable experience to the students. Depending on their skill level, students were given responsibilities and tasks they might not have in similar jobs.
Alanah Burney, a rising freshman at Calhoun, worked with Army Community Service this summer.
"I focus a lot on helping others and where I got placed for the summer is the exact place I needed to be for that," she said. "(My co-workers) have made me a better person I believe."
The directors will soon discuss the direction of the program for next summer and will also decide which students to bring back to the program.
"We have a good foundation to work on for right now," Clark said. "All this is a building tool for the future."