5,594 Detroit youth get jobs via Duggan's program

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The goal of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's Grow Detroit's Young Talent program was to place 5,000 teens and young adults into summer jobs.

Duggan announced Friday that he has surpassed that goal — with 5,594 Detroit youths ages 14 to 24 heading into employment on July 6 — and that thousands more applied to the program looking for work.

"More than 17,000 youths started the application process and more than 12,000 completed it," Duggan said. "We have a lot of great young talent in Detroit and clearly they have the desire to work. Our challenge now is to provide even more opportunity next year."

Local businesses, such as Detroit Manufacturing Services (DMS), Belfor and Errol Service make up the more than 170 new employer partners who have committed to providing placement and financial support to hire youth over the summer.

Throughout the months of May and June, youth applicants were selected based upon both employer request and a random selection process among the applicants.

Orientation sessions preparing youth for the workplace have taken place over the past two weeks and included 12 hours of work readiness training at a worksite, as well as 24 hours of ongoing training throughout the summer.

The program is a collaborative effort between the Mayor's Office, City Connect Detroit, Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation and the philanthropic and business community.

Major sponsors have come forward to provide millions of dollars in funding for the program, while the city of Detroit pledged $1.5 million of community development block grant funds.

Among the major sponsors were: Skillman Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, DTE Energy Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Agency.

"The community response to our challenge to create 5,000 summer jobs for our youth was incredible," Duggan said. "This sends a powerful message to the young people of this city that there is opportunity in Detroit for them and the grown-ups in this town are committed providing them those opportunities."

The work experience begins July 6th. The only thing that out-matched the response from the philanthropic and business community was the response from youths themselves, Duggan said.

Based on the success of GDYT's inaugural year, Duggan says the capacity exists to double his original goal from 5,000 summer jobs this year to 10,000 next year.

During the 2014 Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference, Duggan pledged to secure employment for 5,000 youth.

Training teens and young adults and teaching them skills such as resume writing and interviewing are important. But so is overcoming obstacles, such as getting appropriate clothes for a job interview, or dealing with the public transportation system.

Finding a summer job as a teen in Detroit can be difficult, but so can finding a teen who will keep the job, according to leaders of two partnerships in Detroit that are working to solve both problems.

Frank McGhee, unit director of the Youth Initiatives Project for Neighborhood Service Organization, and Reggie Williams, unit director of YouthLink, are working together on youth employment and opportunity in Detroit.

Williams' focus is on rebuilding relationships with employers who have been burned by young workers who don't show up on time for work, steal materials and act disrespectful.

He focuses on two groups: those ages 14 to 18 and another group 19 to 21.

"That's where we come in and prepare these kids. Once you leave the nest you have to build your own life," Williams said. "In our workshops we do a lot of modeling and we do a lot of criticism and we watch a lot of videos and have employees come in and say what they expect."

There are also talent tours, field trips to businesses such as Google in Ann Arbor and Detroit-based companies such as General Motors, Quicken Loans and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

"They talk to people in those jobs. They want to know how much do they get paid? How much schooling did you have to have to get this job?" Williams said.

Many young adults show up without a high school diploma or GED so they are immediately put on a high school completion track or GED program. Many have social and emotional needs to be met.

"Many of these kids are homeless, displaced. We deal with a litany of issues. These kids are in survival mode," William said.

The goal of Williams' program is to get each person a recognized credential or job training certificate and then get them a job. Part of the workforce training they get includes financial literacy programs which show them how to open a bank account and avoid using check cashing stores for their paycheck.

Williams says there is a waiting list of 300 to 400 teens for summer employment, and all month long he has been certifying students for the program which serves about 375 teens and young adults.

At a recent orientation, Williams said he expected 140 kids. Only 70 came in.

"They didn't show up. We are almost being an enabler and begging them to get a job," he said. "We don't just exit. We try to get them back."

McGhee emphasizes leadership training for teens and young adults, a process that allows them to build confidence and communicate with employers and community leaders.

He runs programs that provide youth leadership and training focused on preventing violence and substance abuse training

"We have a leadership institute. It's not a dog and pony show. They meet with city officials, the mayor, police chiefs," McGhee said.

The program work with 230 teens.

"These are youth you don't see getting jobs. They are former gang members who get in trouble. No connection with the community. We were able to bridge the gap through mentoring," he said.

The way to reach displaced youth, McGhee said, is make them contributors to something much larger than themselves.

"We are making sure they become leaders in the community. Most employers want leaders who have a story," McGhee said. "My students used to see a parking lot when they looked outside here. Now they send me pictures of Campus Martius from their jobs. You want them to do better than you."