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College and Career Pathways

5,000 summer jobs coming for Detroit youth in 2015

More than 100 business leaders gathered for the Breakfast of Champions on Tuesday at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce to hear about the newly re-launched Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program and to make commitments to support Detroit youth in internships this summer.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan summed up what it was all about this way: “The reality is this: People talk about ladders of opportunity all the time. The ladder doesn’t mean very much if it doesn’t reach the ground. And for too many people in the city of Detroit, well, the ladder doesn’t reach the ground.”


Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan greets attendees at the Breakfast of Champions on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. // Paul Engstrom/Skillman Foundation

Summer jobs are one of the first rungs on that ladder.

They’re the first step to having a resume. To having a mentor. To understanding workplace norms. To figuring out how to work with people much different then you. The first step toward financial independence. To learning about budgeting. About taxes. About getting time off when you need it and being a solid member of a team when you’re needed.

Far too few youth in Detroit can say that they’ve experienced this. How can Detroit expect the city to really comeback if young people can’t get that first foot into the career marketplace?

For years, through the previous incarnation of the GDYT program, the Skillman Foundation has worked with some success to improve youth employment opportunities in the city. More than $3 million in funding came into Detroit through GDYT in recent years, and thousands of kids participated in summer job programs.

But that success is nothing like what is expected now.

Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Duggan and the collaboration of many partners, this summer, Detroit can expect to see the newly reoriented Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program balloon to serve more than 5,000 kids.

Supporting youth employment “is a way to ensure the young people in this community have access to the growth that’s going on in our city, and that they have the skills they need,” Skillman Foundation President & CEO Tonya Allen said. “I view this as an important initiative, not just for the sake of doing good things for children or doing good things for families. I see this as a way of staking our claim that Detroit will not recover like other places. We will not be like Seattle. We will not be like New York. We will not be like D.C. – places where you don’t see people who have lived there for generations as part of the solution. We have too much to do to leave out talent.”

The program matches Detroit’s young people with employers for a 6-week, 20-hour-per-week program that combines work readiness training with on-the-job experience for youth ages 14 to 24.

Thought trainings are key. Destiny Cole, 17, is a senior at Detroit Renaissance High School started taking part in work readiness workshops a year ago. The training helped her understand how to make a resume, speak during job interviews and even figure out what to wear.

“Before I didn’t know a resume had to have a cover letter,” said Cole, who went on to work with Math Corps at Wayne State University. “I didn’t know what a cover letter was. Going to the workshop, I learned what a cover letter was, how to properly create it, how to properly create a resume, how to set it up so jobs will look at it and I’ll get my application through the door.”

Beyond additional trainings, some of the new GDYT features:

  • Youth get 12 hours of workforce readiness training before stepping foot onto a work site
  • They’ll get 24 more hours of training throughout the summer
  • Youth will be matched to employers based on interest, ability, and accessibility
  • Employers can be as hands-on or hands-off during the recruitment process
  • Youth receive bus passes through the summer to assist with transportation
  • GDYT makes the employer’s job easy by proving employer training, a tool kit and liaisons. GDYT can also handle payroll

Employer partners can take part with a minimum $1,000 pledge. The full cost per youth is $2,000, which some employers will pay in full. Others can take part thanks to a 1:1 match provided by a variety of funders, including Skillman.

More details, including applications for employees and employers, can be found at one comprehensive site – It’s a one-stop portal for Detroit youth to create a profile, apply for jobs, and get matched with employers.

Check it out. Share the information. Help kids find work. Get them to that first step onto the ladder.

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