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102nd Summer Hire program gives students valuable experience

Mary Gillespie, a UMASS Boston accounting student, has been working in the 102nd Comptroller Flight over the summer. Gillespie is participating in the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) which offers high school and college students the opportunity to work a temporary, full-time job at the 102nd Intelligence Wing alongside members of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

Mary Gillespie, a UMASS Boston accounting student, has been working in the 102nd Comptroller Flight over the summer. Gillespie is participating in the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) which offers high school and college students the opportunity to work a temporary, full-time job at the 102nd Intelligence Wing alongside members of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- While many students prefer to spend their summers lounging in the sun, others make it an opportunity to earn some extra money.

The 102nd's Title V Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) offers high school and college students the opportunity to work a temporary, full-time job at the 102nd Intelligence Wing alongside members of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

The 102nd hired two administrative clerks and 13 laborers this summer. These jobs were filled at the Civil Engineering, Environmental Management, Comptroller, and Roads and Grounds offices.

This experience in a real work environment is crucial for strong résumés. Many students barely touch the full-time workforce until they earn a degree, which makes STEP workers stand out in a pool of applicants.

"These jobs are more skilled than working in retail. Laborers get more experience working with power tools and the government, and hopefully eventually join the Guard," said Kim Scudder, Director of Civilian Personnel.

Rylan Richard is a fourth-year summer hire for Roads and Grounds in the 102nd Civil Engineer Squadron. He is studying Business Marketing at Salve Regina University.
"A lot of kids my age haven't worked with the military. When people see that you're a federal employee when you're only 17-years-old, it says a lot," said Richard.

These jobs also come as a comfort to most hires. In the current economy, finding a job has become increasingly difficult, especially for students with little experience in the workforce and college bills piling up.

Since June 2011, the number of employed teens between ages 16 and 19 has dropped nationwide by more than 300,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only about 27 percent of the teenage population reports that they are employed. Eleven million teens remained jobless as of June 2012.

"I needed more hours; I was only getting five hours a day as a recreation counselor. It was more of a high school job. I live down here in Quincy and this job looks good on a resume. I even moved up a pay grade for coming back," said Mary Gillespie, a second-year summer hire for the 102nd Comptroller Flight.

Gillespie, an Accounting major at the University of Massachusetts Boston, says she can apply the skills she has learned at this job to a future career. She's even considering staying with federal jobs because of this experience.

"I'm open to sticking with the government because of the experience working under it. It's been a good job for experience. I've never been in an office setting, and I've seen how it runs and how tasks are divided, especially with management," said Gillespie.

Ryan McGillicuddy, a Criminal Justice major at Cape Cod Community College, has been working as a summer hire with Roads and Grounds for seven years, and says he hopes to get a permanent position at the 102nd.

"I would love for this to lead to a full-time job here. I've worked here for so long, I could see myself moving to a permanent job, especially with Roads and Grounds," said McGillicuddy.

For Richard, this experience has given him opportunities beyond the 102nd.
"Working here helped me get another job with a company (that is) 90 percent owned by military families. When I met the co-owner, I told him I worked on a military base, and it instantly boosted the connection I had with him."

Summer hires aren't the only ones benefitting, though. Supervisors say the summer hire program has been of massive help to them.

"Having a summer hire has helped out tremendously. We were able to digitally archive thousands of historical records to provide a searchable electronic database for environmentally important historical documents," said Robert Deane, Deputy of Environmental Management.

Scudder says even the 102nd as a whole benefits from these workers.
"I don't think the students realize how important they are. With downsizing, they've been so important to getting backlog accomplished overall," said Scudder.

STEP makes up a portion of the Student Educational Employment Program, which was established in the U.S. in 1994.

The program at the 102nd began in 2002, but is in the process of being replaced by a new program called Pathways.

This new program will override STEP and provide internships related to the student's field of study, with the exception of labor intensive jobs. The GPA requirement of a 2.0 will rise to a 2.5, and interns will still be required to be enrolled for fall semester courses or they may apply if they've earned a degree within the last two years. Veteran students will also be given preference under this new program to ensure they are employed.