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Labor secretary, Duggan tout summer jobs effort

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan was joined Tuesday by Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu to recruit more businesses for the city’s summer youth employment initiative.

The pair, after meeting with a group of employers at the Detroit NAACP Branch on Second Avenue, announced about 20 more companies have signed on as partners for the city’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program.

But Duggan said the city needs more commitments to meet this year’s goal of putting to work 8,000 young people in the city. Detroit has 170 employers on board with a goal of 250. Last year, 140 employers were involved.

“We are in the final push for employers. Businesses can come on for another month,” he said. “We really could use 100 more companies to get where we need to be.”

An all-out push is underway, Duggan said, adding he intends to convene meetings with the business community weekly to gain more support.

An expanded summer jobs program is among the projects Detroit has discussed with federal officials.

In 2014, President Barack Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps boys and young men of color face. He issued a challenge to cities — including Detroit — towns, counties and tribal nations to implement a coherent cradle-to-college and career strategy.

Lu on Tuesday noted the federal government has $20 million in grants to award in 10 cities across the country for summer job programming. Detroit applied for its own $2 million grant award under the program. Officials say they hope to learn by May if the city will be among the recipients.

“The grant application process is closed and we will be making awards shortly,” said Lu, adding he has no influence over who wins.

Lu added while the funding is important, it’s not enough to move the needle around the country. “That’s one of the reasons we spend so much time on the road asking the private sector to step up and help on this effort,” he said.

The six-week employment program launched last year. Officials have since been working to expand it from serving about 5,600 youth last year to about 8,000 this summer.

Duggan said the city has raised about $9 million between businesses and foundations toward the summer program.

Duggan’s youth jobs program recruits eligible people ages 14-24 through local schools, community organizations and the city’s workforce development system. Pay varies; youth ages 14-17 will earn $8 an hour, and those 18 and older will be paid $9.50 an hour, according to Detroit’s website.

Architecture firms, television and radio stations, construction, urban farming, banking and transportation companies were among those who vowed Tuesday to support the program.

Hiram Jackson, CEO of the Michigan Chronicle, said Tuesday the program is a “building block” in the effort to support Detroit’s youth.

“As an employer, I see people come into our environment every day who are not ready,” said Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media LLC, which will be a participating partner this summer. “They didn’t have the building blocks that you need to become an effective employee. Today is exciting to me because I know the challenges we have as a city in terms of after-school participation and summer programs.”

Separately, the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment last month announced a $100,000 grant to support 50-60 summer internships at The Palace, Detroit Police Athletic League and SAY Detroit.

The summer jobs effort is mainly funded through private donations. Some partners include DTE Energy, the Skillman Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg and the Ralph C. Wilson foundations.