ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Two Bel Air High School students are gaining information technology experience this summer while working at the U.S. Army Signal Network Enterprise Center.

Ben Xu, 15, and Eric Chau, 17, are two of 47 teens in the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's HIRED! program. The HIRED! program provides paid apprenticeships for 15 to 18-year-olds. During the summer term, apprentices work eight hour shifts, two days a week, assisting with basic duties that are appropriate for their age and level of experience.

Xu and Chau have assisted with filtering a software list for USASNEC, which involves doing discovery on the network, or researching different software titles on the internet to determine whether they are applications unto themselves, or applets wrapped within the installation of another application, or drivers for hardware.

"Once we get this filtered software list complied, it will help us immensely to specifically identify the software on a user's computer," said Gloria Radkiewicz an IT specialist with the Business and Plans Division, who serves as Xu and Chau's on-site mentor. "Their work will have lasting effects."

They are also organizing files for the Army Records Information Management System, the Army's official records management system.

"This is a hands-on project and they have done a great job, I am thrilled about it," Radkiewicz said. "Having knowledge of the Army's filing system is an entirely portable skill."

Xu, who plans to major in mechanical engineering and Chau, who intends to major in medical engineering, said they wanted to work at USASNEC to gain real-world work experience.

"Plus an apprenticeship looks good on a college resume," Xu said.

Jay McKinney, APG'S HIRED! coordinator said that his goal is to match apprentices with organizations that reflect their career interests. This year, McKinney set his sights on more non-FMWR job locations.

"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."

Xu and Chau were the first HIRED! apprentices at APG to go through the process of securing a Common Access Card and gaining access to the network. In order to gain these privileges, Xu and Chau had to complete the necessary forms and training.

"It has taken us awhile to complete the necessary forms and training, but we have worked through it," Radkiewicz said.

"Without a CAC their work would be severely limited," McKinney added. "They were our test subjects. Hopefully now that we have gone through this process, we will be able to offer more non-MWR placements to teens."

Radkiewicz, who found out about the HIRED! Program this spring by reading the APG News, said that she was excited about helping teens gain valuable work experience.

"If you have an opportunity to make a difference, you have to seize it," Radkiewicz said. "It might help them in the future. Also, I really like people and teens, so I really wanted to help."

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 their individual apprentices.

McKinney said that the program offers more than just a job. It offers valuable experience for teens.

"Many teens are unsure of what career they want to pursue," McKinney said. "This program gives them a chance to explore these options."

Career options in the HIRED! program 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 the students include participating in other career preparation enrichment activities such as workshops and classes where students learn 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. "Students 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."

The HIRED! program is accepting teens for the fall term, which starts Sept. 10. Teens need to register for the fall term by Aug. 7. During the fall term, teens will work three hours a day, five days a week. On Aug. 16 teens will be able to earn five prerequisite credits by attending the "Preparing Teens for the Workplace" workshop held at the Youth Services Bldg. 2522, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To register or to find out how to become a mentor, contact McKinney at jay.a.mckinney.naf@mail.mil, or call 410-278-3250.