Detroit launches 7th year of summer job program for youth

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — As the hard-hit city bounces back from the pandemic, it's welcoming youth to return to work either in-person or virtually with 8,048 filled summer jobs.

Grow Detroit's Young Talent, which trains and employs young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 for up to 120 hours, launched its seventh year of six-week programming on Monday.

This year, the program raised $11.3 million to employ youth in a broad range of jobs including community cleanups, event planning, accounting, retail and the junior police or fire cadets. It's a mix of in-person and virtual experiences with an expanded program for young people interested in skilled trades and options for those juggling summer school.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks on the Grow Detroit Young Talent Program beside five-year participant, Terance Williams, on July 12, 2021.

"There was no meaningful summer job program in the city eight years ago," Mayor Mike Duggan said. "We had this idea ... it’s really now become a huge part of the culture of this city. We have people graduating from high school, going to college, who can’t remember summer when they couldn’t get a job because they lived in the city."

Ford Motor Co. backed the program with a $1 million commitment over the next two years to provide funding for youth wages. Youth working with RAM Construction, including the Michigan Central Station site, will be provided with work and safety equipment and clothing courtesy of Carhartt. 

"It's about how we can create community and support community," said Mary Culler, president of the Ford Fund. "I'm proud to say we're starting small, but I still think it's going to grow and be an amazing program."

Last year, the program also employed 8,000 local youth and has created more than 50,000 summer job experiences since launching in 2015.

Stephanie Nixon, chief program officer of Detroit at Work, said that during the pandemic, it helped distribute internet tech support to 3,200 youth, and 41% who worked in-person were offered permanent opportunities. Additionally, it launched an inaugural mentorship program that paired youth with 71 professional mentors.

"When other cities canceled their summer youth employment, of course, that wasn't an option for Detroit," Nixon said. "Not since the Recovery Act of 2008, under President Barack Obama, have we enjoyed the funding level that we see today. We were awarded, at that time, $11 million to serve 7,000 young people. The year after that, the funding dropped by half. Today, we beat that total."

Terance Williams, a participant of the program for the last five years, is working with RAM Construction on Ford's Michigan Central Station Project. Williams said he gained experience in painting and drywall, and hopes to have a future career in construction.

"There's no better place to learn my skills and develop my skills and career in construction as a career path," he said. "I'm excited to be a part of these projects in making this city better."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_