Jackie Gummel, the first county vocational-technical school student accepted into the intern program at the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Office of Local Government Assistance, learned very quickly the importance of customer service in working with 21 counties and 565 municipalities.
“More than 75 DEP programs impact New Jersey’s local governments, covering issues from land use, to natural and historic resources, to site remediation, to air quality,” said Cindy Randazzo, Jackie’s supervisor, who has served as Director of the office since 2010. “There are approximately 2800 DEP employees who directly assist with the many complex issues, to assure compliance with all state and federal regulations.
“Commissioner Bob Martin created a change in the dynamics of how the Department conducts business, increasing the emphasis on customer service and the importance of building stronger relationships while maintaining the core mission of the department” she said. “We want to help people fulfill their environmental responsibilities through education, effective outreach and communication.”
Randazzo, who worked in finance before joining DEP, has hired 24 college interns in the past six years to assist her staff of three in carrying out the mission of the office.
While the interns learn vital data entry skills and other basic office tasks, Randazzo also creates opportunity for them to get involved in the outreach, site visits, and meetings with local mayors, freeholders and other officials.
“I want this to be a valuable experience for our interns, whether they are interested in environmental sciences careers or not. I want them to begin to learn how the world really works, how to work productively with other people, and how to communicate and act in a professional manner,” Randazzo said.
“All young people need to know these things in order to succeed, whatever career they pursue,” she said.
And that made it the perfect place to gain experience for Jackie, a member of the Class of 2016 at Mercer County Technical Schools (MCTS).
“I hope to get my college degree in business management, so I was really excited about the chance to get a better understanding of how a large organization functions, and how everyone has a role to play in meeting its goals,” said Jackie, 18 and a graphic arts major at MCTS, who took her academic and graphic arts classes in the morning and her photography courses at Mercer County Community College in the afternoon.
Jackie, a Ewing resident, graduated from MCTS in June. This fall, she will be attending MCCC to obtain her associate’s degree, and then pursue her bachelor’s degree at Rider University.
“I worked at DEP on Fridays this past semester, and I really looked forward to it,” she said. “I learned something new every week from Cindy and her staff. Sometimes it was about the technology that makes the department run, sometimes it was about learning how people comply with the regulations for a DEP program and sometimes it was about meeting and working with all different kinds of people.”
David Nash, the Structured Learning Experience and internship coordinator at MCTS, made the initial contact with Randazzo at DEP and encouraged Jackie to apply for the position.
“Mr. Nash is such a great guy,” Jackie said. “He takes the time to understand where each student wants to go in his or her career and then matches us up with internships that move us along those pathways. The DEP Office of Local Government Assistance was a great fit for me.”
MCTS Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Schneider noted that in addition to teaching students technical skills in many fields, New Jersey county vocational-technical schools’ curricula also incorporate “the soft skills that all employers are looking for, like problem-solving, responsibility, teamwork, flexibility and creativity.
“We are very grateful to organizations like DEP that are willing to give our high school students the kinds of internships that allow them to understand the value of these skills through real-world experience,” Dr. Schneider said.
Randazzo said Jackie has been an eager participant in carrying out her office’s mission and was very successful in her dealings with her co-workers and the local officials.
“She’s a terrific young woman: Very bright, very poised and very professional,” Randazzo said. “Like many of our former interns, Jackie got the wings to soar here. Everything she’s learned is something that will be very useful to her in what I’m sure will be a successful career in business.”