Much of the talk about Detroit’s transformation is centered on the economic development happening in downtown and Midtown. While programs like Motor City Makeover are working to help entrepreneurs launch their ventures successfully in neighborhoods around the city, some voice concern that not enough is being done to provide opportunities for youth in the city.

This is where Grow Detroit’s Young Talent comes in. A program that, last year, connected 8,100 Detroiters, aged 14-24, to meaningful, real-world work experiences at local nonprofits and corporations. The focus for 2017 is to keep the momentum going while ensuring those opportunities do more to prepare participants for their eventual careers.

For DTE Energy chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson, this focus is vital for Detroit’s resurgence.

“It’s great that we’re moving downtown and Midtown, but what really needs to happen for Detroit to be healthy is to rebuild the middle class. The way to rebuild the middle class is to build a strong workforce. That needs to start with young people in their teens,” said Anderson.

The changes to GDYT to address career readiness include:

  • Expanded vocational training
  • Opportunities to earn industry recognized training certifications
  • Career-pathway internships for second- and third-year GDYT youth ages 16 and older

There are plenty of youths who need an opportunity. At the GDYT kickoff at DTE Energy’s headquarters, Tonya Allen, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation noted that 33 percent of Detroit youths ages 16-24 percent are not attached to the workforce or in school, triple the number for cities like Atlanta.

“This is really about making sure that every young person has an opportunity to work, to find their full potential,” said Allen.

Employers are needed to make sure these types of summer jobs are available. Before GDYT, there were several organizations doing their own version of a summer jobs program including DTE Energy, The Skillman Foundation, General Motors and the Detroit Medical Center. Those efforts netted approximately 2,000 jobs each year.

By serving as a central coordinating body, Mayor Mike Duggan said the city set a goal in 2016 to employ 8,000 youths after the huge influx of applications came in for the 2015 year. In 2016, the trend continued, as nearly 11,000 young adults applied for the 8,000 open spots in the program.

According to the Mayor, the program is doing just what it is intended to do – getting youth hired full-time. In fact, a number of employers who have participated in GDYT said they hired the students who were placed to work in their companies because it was such a beneficial experience for everyone. His message to any employer unsure about participating is simple.

“We want you in, even if you can only take one young person,” said Mayor Duggan.

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