Opinion: Exploring program helps kids find careers

Brandon Brice and John Fort

In 2016 the city of Detroit fined contractors hired to build Little Ceasar’s Arena $500,000 for falling short of a requirement which called for local workers to make up 51 percent of the labor hired for the project.

While the fine may have left some people scratching their heads, it was a comment from Detroit Office of Human Rights Director Portia Roberson, charged with making sure the hiring goals are met, that told the real story.

The number of jobs posted by U.S. employers declined slightly in September but still exceeded the number of unemployed Americans and remained near a two-decade high.

At the time she said city officials were confident that developers made an "honest" attempt to meet the requirements by hosting job fairs and organized worker-training programs in advance of arena construction.

This inability to find a qualified workforce is an issue that we have been working on for several years through our Exploring program which offers our youth in the Detroit area opportunities to explore careers before they graduate from high school. Currently, we offer career exploration in 10 different areas including skilled trades, engineering, technology, and law enforcement.

Currently, in excess of 3,500 youth living in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, the three counties served by the Detroit-based Exploring program, are participating in Exploring programs.

These programs are a part of the Boy Scouts of America and are available to individual Scout councils throughout the United States, including the Michigan Crossroads Council, which offers Exploring programming in Detroit.

Exploring in Detroit is partnering with area businesses and organizations such as Wayne State University, American Axle and the Detroit Police Department to offer immersive and hands-on opportunities to youth ages 14-21 who attend schools in the city’s urban core. Through their membership in Exploring chapters, these kids meet on a regular weekly basis with experts in their fields to take a deep dive into vocations they are interested in pursuing.

Their involvement serves a dual purpose, the first being the opportunity to try before they buy.

“The reality is that we have too many kids getting steered into a college track that they may not be interested in and an equal number of kids who enter college having no idea of how to create successful outcome so they’re immediately employable,” said Anthony Jackson, group president of TAG Holding LLC and chairman for the Detroit Exploring program.

The Dearborn and Detroit police departments both have officers working for them who first came to their attention in the Exploring program.

Officer Dwayne Deck, a former Explorer and 17-year veteran with the police department, is an example of this pipeline.

“Those businesses and organizations that already have partnered with us to establish Exploring chapters have seen the value it brings in terms of opportunities to create their own talent pipelines,” Jackson said. “We are encouraging other businesses and organizations to join this movement which is a proven win-win for all involved.”

Brandon Brice and John Fort are Exploring executives for the Boy Scouts of America.