Seven years after he started at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) as a YouthWorks employee, Micah Murphy isn’t sure he would have completed college if he hadn’t participated in the program, let alone now be employed as a web developer in the UMB Office of Communications and Public Affairs (OCPA) and attending graduate school.
Murphy was a 16-year-old student at a Baltimore high school when he applied for YouthWorks, a program in the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development’s (MOED) Youth Services Division that was established 50 years ago and provides a five-week job opportunity during the summer to thousands of Baltimore’s young people ages 14 to 21. Its mission is to collaborate with participants and employers to create a meaningful paid employment opportunity that enhances youths’ job skills.
UMB offices and departments have the opportunity each year to hire students during the summer. Murphy was placed with the UMB Police Department his first year, working as an office assistant with duties that included installing a keylock system.
“It was really a great opportunity,” said Murphy, who returned for a second summer at UMB to work for Human Resource Services (HRS), which changed the trajectory of his career.
Murphy reported to Emily Runser, MS, human capital management functional lead for compensation, and she noticed he was a hard worker as he helped HRS digitize job descriptions.
“HRS had a need to add 500-plus documents to the website, and he gladly attended website training and added these documents to the website during his weeks of YouthWorks,” Runser said. “He was determined to complete the task while he was here and provided the HRS team feedback on how to do this better and maintain the documents. This showed me that he had developed the skills that any employer would appreciate. Micah’s accountability and commitment allowed HRS to achieve its goal.”
These attributes led Runser to recommend Murphy for a part-time contractual position as a web developer in OCPA during a chance encounter with a colleague in an elevator who told her about an opening. Murphy’s YouthWorks job was ending, and he was about to begin his first year of college at the University of Baltimore, where he initially thought he would study accounting.
“I had no prior web development experience, but since they knew I was a hard worker, they were willing to let me come in and train me, and now I’m here as an actual web developer,” said Murphy, who changed his major to marketing and is pursuing a master’s degree in management and marketing. He added that if he hadn’t been able to work at UMB, which provided him flexibility while attending classes, he may have been forced to drop out and find a full-time job instead.
It’s these types of opportunities that UMB departments and offices can offer to the young people of Baltimore.
“YouthWorks gives students the unique opportunity to work in higher education, which is unlike working for a private-sector company or a regular state agency,” said Camille Givens-Patterson, community partnership specialist, Office of Community Engagement, who coordinates YouthWorks at UMB with Kim Mathis, office manager, Office of Accountability and Compliance. “It also gives students an opportunity to envision themselves either working or continuing their education.”
Under the YouthWorks program, MOED interviews each applicant and determines if students are work-ready or need improvement before being deemed work-ready. Students deemed work-ready participate in private-sector YouthWorks, which at UMB is a partnership among OCE, HRS, and the Office of Accountability and Compliance. UMB has participated for 30 years and hosts 15 to 20 students annually. Students are placed in administrative roles across the University and are paid minimum wage.
Givens-Patterson and Mathis begin to inform UMB departments about YouthWorks in February each year, with a deadline to request a student at the end of March.
“To attain the best students, we prefer a department request a student early,” Givens-Patterson said. “We also give the department an opportunity to interview the students with us.”
She said it’s remarkable to watch the YouthWorks students grow during the experience.
“I find it most rewarding to see how students’ work ethic progresses and they mature,” she said. “Usually their first year, they do not know what to expect out of the job. The second year, you see them more confident and ready to work, and they help other students who are in their first year.”
She added that many UMB employees such as Murphy started as YouthWorks students.
“For those who do get the chance to work at UMB, the future is very bright with endless opportunities,” Givens-Patterson said.
Connections to Professionals
Murphy encourages young people in Baltimore to apply to YouthWorks and UMB offices to participate in hiring.
“It’s a great opportunity for Baltimore. I have relatives in different counties, different states who have to find work in so many different ways and have to find connections,” he said. “YouthWorks is such a great way to get connected to professionals within Baltimore City.”
Laura Kozak, MA, chief marketing officer and senior associate vice president, OCPA, praised the YouthWorks program.
“Micah has been a huge asset to UMB during the five years he has worked for OCPA,” she said. “He’s a hard worker who is eager to learn and take on new tasks. When he joined our team, he didn’t have a web development background but quickly learned the skills he needed. He has recently started managing clients’ project requests for our web team, assigning projects and setting up meetings to discuss details. We are very grateful to YouthWorks for bringing Micah into the UMB fold.”
Murphy, who was hired full time by OCPA in spring 2023, credits YouthWorks, UMB, and OCPA with helping his career blossom.
“I’m really grateful to everyone involved who got me to where I am today,” he said. “I don’t think I would have been this far professionally if it weren’t for YouthWorks and UMB.”