Detroit’s summer youth jobs program faces going online only – Crain’s Detroit Business - Freelance Rack

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Detroit’s summer youth jobs program faces going online only – Crain’s Detroit Business

Last summer, Detroit tech nonprofit Journi took its Grow Detroit’s Young Talent participants on a field trip to the building in Corktown where StockX verifies collector sneakers. This summer, though, those students will be at home working on laptops.

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on in-person gatherings, and that includes educational and training experiences. With applications already streaming in since January, the city of Detroit summer jobs program was forced to make a sharp pivot to digital-only. So were its partners, the nonprofits and companies like Journi that offer six weeks of paid work or training for ages 14-24.

Before the coronavirus crisis hit, employers had already committed to taking 5,000 of Grow Detroit’s Young Talent’s average 8,000 job slots per year, said Marie Hocker, the program’s executive director.

“So immediately our team went into action,” Hocker said, to understand which businesses could switch to remote work instead of in-person. She estimates that employers and industry-led training providers could convert just 700 jobs.

The Grow Detroit team then went where its participants will go this summer: online. They looked at how they could simulate real-world work for the rest of the participants, and decided to use two software platforms through Dearborn-based Educational Data Systems Inc. and

Hocker said Grow Detroit will still be able to take the approximately 8,000 youth it would have accepted without a worldwide pandemic.

“I think they jumped on it pretty quickly, to say ‘We’re going to go virtual,’ and they didn’t really wait to see what would happen,” said Journi CEO Richard Grundy, whose organization will provide laptop computers for its Grow Detroit trainees this summer. “The fact that they made that decision early enough gave us time to prepare for it.”

Participants 14-16 years old will be paid to go through career exploration resource Virtual Job Shadow. They’ll learn about education requirements needed to enter a variety of fields and potential earnings, Hocker said. Grow Detroit will pay around $50,000 for 5,000 participant slots.

On Educational Data Systems’ training platform, those 17-24 years old can engage with employers in high-growth industries digitally through projects and workshops. Participants will be able to enroll in occupational training in manufacturing, IT, health care, construction and customer service, according to Hocker. As of now the cost is estimated at around $130,000.

The funding for Grow Detroit, managed by agency Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., comes from foundations and employer partners. Hocker expects this summer’s program to cost $11.7 million total, down at least $200,000 from 2019. In order to earn their stipends, the youths will need to do individual and group assignments and a capstone project.

There’s a chance employers may still provide some on-site jobs, but that’s not clear yet, Hocker said. Michigan is in the third phase of a six-phase economic reopening plan.

The shift to online isn’t like flipping a switch — not even close.

Detroit Public Schools Community District estimates just 10 percent-20 percent of its students have consistent internet access at home. And that doesn’t include the Grow Detroit participants who aren’t enrolled in a DPSCD school.

To get kids online this summer, Hocker hopes to piggyback off a major effort announced by the public school district last month. A $23 million public-private fund is being used to buy and distribute wireless internet-enabled tablets to all 51,000 pre-K-12 students starting in June.

For Grow Detroit participants who aren’t in the school system, the city employment program plans to raise funds to get them those tablets and internet access.

“This is still one critical area of need,” Hocker said.

There wasn’t an estimate yet on how much the tablets would cost. Grow Detroit also still needs to raise funds to cover $1.8 million in participants’ stipend costs.

Asked about potential difficulties in getting young people to apply, Hocker said they’d received 13,227 applications for just 8,000 spots as of early this week.

In 2019, more than 16,000 applied and in 2018, more than 13,000. Applicants are completing their registrations now and then the team will make selections.

Detroit’s Parks and Recreation Division plans to work with Grow Detroit to possibly employ virtual tutors for the children who would usually go to Parks and Rec’s Summer Fun Centers for activities, spokesman Jeremy Thomas told Crain’s in an email, though it’s not solidified yet. In past years, Parks and Rec would have Grow Detroit participants work at its day camp and summer center programs.

Journi expects to take on 55 trainees this year through GDYT.

The nonprofit provided laptops last summer that had been donated by Detroit-based Quicken Loans Inc. It still has those computers and will be loaning them out this summer.

Last year, Journi’s Grow Detroit cohort met for six weeks on Wayne State University’s campus in Midtown, CEO Grundy said, and took field trips to experience Detroit tech companies in action. This summer will be different. Grundy said they’ve hired more instructors this summer so (students) can have the support they need.

Grundy said he’s talking with tech companies like Facebook and Amazon about virtual tours or interview sessions. He says it’s going to be hard for students to collaborate as well this year. A silver lining is they could get exposed to big companies outside Detroit.

Contact: [email protected]; (313) 446-0416; @annalise_frank

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