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Employers: Here’s How to Create More Valuable Opportunities for Young People

Earlier this week, Jerry Norcia, CEO of DTE Energy and trustee for The Skillman Foundation, wrote a piece for Crain’s Detroit Business about how best to support interns during the challenges of remote work. This is important for two reasons: first, many students have been attending school and working remotely for over a year. Second, as summer approaches, many young people will be engaging in virtual internship and summer youth employment opportunities.

Mr. Norcia provides seven recommendations to create the best possible remote work experiences for young interns:

  1. Create engaging programming to build connections in a virtual world
  2. Be patient with students and technology
  3. Schedule frequent group check-ins with students
  4. Accommodate challenges at home
  5. Set aside time for group wellness
  6. Adapt professional development programs
  7. Lead from the top

As we approach another year of Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT), we want to lift up the work of the DESC and City Connect, GDYT employers, and other stakeholders for adapting their programming to put young people’s safety and well-being at the forefront. The past year has been challenging for so many reasons. However, in the midst of these challenges, it has allowed us to explore new ways to improve how we engage young people.

This adaptability and problem solving further expounds on the mission of GDYT, DTE, and other employers who seek to provide youth employment opportunities and equitable access to opportunity. Many of us understand that when young people have meaningful work-related experiences, it better prepares them for their future. It is a chance to develop essential and technical skills, gain insights on potential careers and sectors, build relationships and expand their networks—and receive compensation for their work.  

However, after a year of remote learning and engagement, young people are understandably tired and anxious. We must ask ourselves how we can best meet young people where they are at and how to leverage youth-centered approaches that attend to their distinct needs, backgrounds, and aspirations. Young people are more likely to lean in when adults show them care, encouragement, and support.

As Mr. Norcia wrote, we must focus on relationships. Young people are dealing with a lot right now and they may not have the same coping tools and mechanisms as us adults do. Let’s listen to youth and seek to support them as they navigate the challenges of today and the possibilities of tomorrow.

There is a wealth of resources for employers who would like to leverage high-quality youth development practices. Organizations like the Youth Development Resource Center, the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, Connect Detroit, and Urban Alliance have valuable information on how to support the social-emotional well-being of young people in the virtual workplace. Following the insight of these knowledgeable organizations can help employers create a rewarding summer internship experience.

Kumar Raj

Former program officer for The Skillman Foundation

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