James Mitchell| Crain’s Custom Media

Programs designed to provide young people with seasonal employment have been around for decades, but organizers said this year’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent hiring initiative offers more than just a “summer job.”

“The heart of it is to allow young people to better themselves,” said Dierk Hall, president and CEO of City Connect Detroit, which administers the program on behalf of the city. “Young people need to think about a career path earlier than we did at that age.”

Since its launch in 2009 the program has placed each year about 1,500 workers age 14 – 24 in paid positions, mostly funded through private donations. This year’s initiative brings several programs together under Grow Detroit’s Young Talent umbrella, a combination of federal funding and private and corporate investment that aims to place 5,000 young workers.

Three funding mechanisms will be in place: Companies or individuals can pledge $2,000 and sponsor a work experience; employers can directly hire a young person who has been recruited and screened; and this year’s employer partners will have up to $1,000 matched by the city, as pledged by Mayor Mike Duggan.

Hall said that previous versions of summer-work initiatives had often been seen primarily as an effort to keep kids out of trouble – and provide an hourly wage often needed in city households – but with the available resources this year’s program can and should do more.

“We’ve come to understand that one of the key factors to intervention is opportunity,” Hall said. “It used to be all about a summer job, but it’s really a program to increase work-readiness training.”

Beyond the paycheck, and any hands-on work experience, the program represents “a pipeline” for city teens to explore future opportunities and be ready for them.

“It’s about preparing young people for pathways out of high school,” said Pamela Moore, president and CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., which this year will provide workers and support services to Grow Detroit’s Young Talent. DESC has administered summer-job programs for several decades, Moore said, a year-round effort that provides pre-employment screening and placement services. “We’ve got all kinds of partners representing the different sectors that are growing in Detroit.”

The jobs span a wide range, reflective of a diverse base of participating employers. Hall said that the majority of participants are in the younger bracket of eligibility – 14 to 17 years old. Some will cut lawns, while others will work at day care centers or nursing homes. More advanced work for older, returning participants this year will include work at Compuware and a few who will punch in for duty at the mayor’s office.

“We need more businesses on board,” Hall said. “We’d really like them to take a chance. This year’s expansion is a concentrated effort to get more businesses involved, and we can learn together and grow together.”

Information on Grow Detroit’s Young Talent is available at gdyt.org.

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