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Internships Build Critical Skills to Grow Detroit Region’s Talent

By Yazmine Brooks

Cultivating and retaining local talent is critically important as our region and state prepare for the workforce of the future. As an intern with the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative, I have an up-close view of the Chamber’s important work to increase the number of talented adults in the region with a postsecondary degree or credential through research and writing blogs. I’m also learning about myself and developing important 21st century skills for the workplace.

I grew up in Detroit with my mom and attended a Detroit Public Schools elementary and middle school, where I was consistently placed on the honor role. While attending middle school, I got involved with a school program called “Future Leaders.” This opportunity helped me learn many of my foundation skills — i.e., reading comprehension, math and technology proficiency. Foundational skills are also things like critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and creativity – necessary skills to be productive in the workplace.

According to the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, roughly 200,000 adults in Detroit – half of the adult population—have a gap in their foundational skills. Similarly, 27 percent of high school students in the tri-county region need remediation in math or reading when they enter college. These individuals will struggle to earn a degree, struggle in the workforce, and our entire region will struggle because we’re leaving people behind.

Last year, I took the SAT for the first time and, despite my good grades and involvement in extracurricular activities, my score was lower than I expected. My foundational skills are strong, but I have plenty of things to learn and skills to develop before I start college. And I’m being proactive in developing these skills: I’m studying for and retaking the SAT this fall and I’m doing an internship at the Chamber this summer.

Internships are crucial to help young people and adults learn communication, discipline, time management and more. Michigan’s future is dependent on my generation and future generations of young people who aren’t typically provided with business and workforce opportunities.

As Malcom X explained, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Business have a role in developing talent and educating the future workforce. One of the easiest ways to fulfill this role is by inviting students into your workplace through job shadow, open houses, mentorship, internships and entry-level jobs. Students need to know that the future holds many opportunities for us to be successful. Exploring careers, getting exposure to office and industry settings, and learning from industry experts is invaluable. Reach out to your community today and explore ways to get involved in students’ lives.

Need assistance? Contact Sarah Craft at scraft@detroitchamber.com to start the conversation.

Yazmine Brooks is a Detroit Drives Degrees intern at the Detroit Regional Chamber.