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Grow Detroit’s Young Talent

Pages 36-37

As Detroit’s turnaround continues to gain momentum, Mayor Mike Duggan is reaching out to area businesses to create opportunities for employment and sustainable career pathways for youths through the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT) program.

The six-week summer employment program combines work readiness training with on the-job experience for Detroiters ages 14 to 24. In its first year, the program’s goal is to connect 5,000 residents with summer jobs.

“This is something we needed to do,” Duggan said during a kick-off event for the program at the Detroit Regional Chamber in January. “There was a lot of great work being done in disconnected ways with our youth. However, we were not finding a way that the average teenager in Detroit could sort through all these different summer programs.”

Grow Detroit’s Young Talent – first announced during the 2014 Mackinac Policy Conference – partners with existing youth-mentoring organizations to create one centralized summer program with a unified brand. It also gives employers a one-stop shop to access the city’s talent pool.

“People talk about ladders of opportunity all the time,” Duggan said. “The ladder doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t reach the ground, and for too many young people in Detroit, the ladder doesn’t reach the ground.”

One of those rungs on the ladder of opportunity, Duggan said, is learning how to interview for a job, and once hired, learning how to talk, dress and interact in a professional environment.

“These jobs shape our lives,” Duggan said, adding that he’s proud of the fact that while serving as CEO of Detroit Medical Center, the hospital’s staff often included doctors or medical practitioners who started off as high school interns and were later hired after graduating from college.
“It’s hard to be something if you haven’t had the opportunity to see it,” Duggan added. “If we don’t give these kids a place to start, we don’t know where they will end up next.”

Eligible students are recruited through Detroit schools, community organizations and the initiative’s recruiting partners, including the Bing Youth Institute, The Skillman Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Workforce Intelligence Network.

The Detroit Regional Chamber is co-chairing the program and has pledged to match 500 students with jobs as part of the 2014 Mackinac Policy Conference To-Do List. Efforts to recruit employers are underway.

“This program is important for the future of our city and the future of our young people,” said Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer at the Chamber. “We want to make sure every child in our community has the opportunity to explore their future and learn about what exists right within our city.”

Carnrike said the Chamber is pleased to partner with Mayor Duggan on the program. “It’s about the future of our youth and building the future of our talent pipeline, and that matters to the business community,” she said.

Ed Egnatios, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, agrees, stating that by bringing community groups together under one program, GDYT creates a solid framework to build strong public-private partnerships.

“With the help of the Chamber, with the leadership of the mayor, with all of the program funders continuing to be champions, we will exceed our goal,” he said.

Tonya Allen, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation, said the foundation has worked with some success to improve youth employment opportunities in the city in recent years, stating that youth employment is critical to sustain the city’s resurgence.

“As Detroiters, as businesses, community and philanthropic organizations, supporting our youth is a way to ensure that young people are put on a path toward prosperity and have access to the growth that’s going on in our city,” Allen said. “We will not be like Seattle. We will not be like New York. We will not be like Washington, 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 young people.”

For more information on Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, visit gdyt.org or contact Program Director David Cherry at 313.967.5641.