On their way to starting careers, countless students have endured summer internships hyped as job experience but instead became a slog of opening mail, filing, answering phones and waiting around. Not so at DTE Energy where this summer more than 1,000 college and high school students enjoyed challenging paid jobs and professional work experiences at DTE and with other organizations through grants from the DTE Energy Foundation.
“Our students who worked at DTE this summer acquired real world skills to put on their resume and tangibly contributed toward DTE’s aspiration to be the best operated energy company in North America,” said Diane Antishin, vice president of Human Resources and chief diversity and inclusion officer at DTE. “This was the second year DTE has provided summer work experiences for youth on this scale.”
“I liked the work I did at DTE a lot,” said Antonio Black-Nicholson, a graduate of Detroit’s Osborn High School who interned with DTE’s electric operations. “They gave me insight on career opportunities and taught me skills for cable pulling and cable splicing. My experience definitely opened my mind about careers I hadn’t thought about before.”
Since 2015, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Youth Policy Lab have studied program outcomes of Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, a citywide summer jobs program that trains and employs young adults. Study data indicate participants experience increased academic performance and are more likely to graduate high school and continue to postsecondary education.
“These findings confirm we’re on the right track with DTE’s direct investments in summer youth work experiences as well as the seasonal youth job programs we’re supporting through the DTE Energy Foundation,” said Antishin. The youth participating in DTE programs are high school students or recent high school graduates.
Of the 1,010 summer jobs, more than 80 Detroit high school students participated in an eight-week paid internship program at DTE, half gaining experience in professional office settings and half in skilled trades areas. “In addition to the experience they received on the job, the students received important work and life training including making a quick pitch to introduce themselves and their qualifications as well as how to make professional presentations to groups,” said Tracy DiSanto, DTE’s manager of Workforce Planning and Development.
An academic readiness component was integrated into the program in partnership with Henry Ford College in Dearborn to assist participating youth with their reading and math skills. Additional help was offered in financial literacy and resume writing as well as Toastmasters speech training and professional networking. DTE partnered with The First Tee, a Detroit nonprofit, to teach student interns the importance of maintaining professional etiquette and conducting business in and out of the office setting.
“Depending on the setting in which they gained experience, we also provided training in using Microsoft Office, business writing and working in the field with utility equipment,” said DiSanto.
“I was able to help operate and load trucks,” said Ja’Mea Delaine, a student from Detroit’s Randolph Career Technical Center. “My mentors taught me so much and gave me the knowledge and opportunity to do the work myself.”
Grants totaling $1,040,000 from the DTE Energy Foundation supported a further 645 student jobs in six west Michigan counties and Detroit including 20 students between 14 and 16 years of age who participated in a pilot program that exposed them to the expectations of a work environment and career opportunities in energy. Focused on alternative career paths such as skilled-trades, this program gives youth the opportunity to develop and support community projects with the involvement of DTE retiree mentors.