Program Spotlight: Grow Detroit’s Young Talent Summer Youth Training Program

Jill Monte - Content Specialist ·

Virtual learning has become a conventional and often preferred method for youth to explore career pathways, training and employment. In Michigan and many other states, youth training and career exploration programs have been introduced by cities, mayor’s offices, large employers and other community-based organizations who are invested in helping youth explore meaningful and lucrative learning opportunities.

You may be wondering how these youth programs go about offering an innovative, engaging experience, and in this blog you will learn just that! Read my interview with EDSI Learning Solutions Manager, Akilah Paramore to find out more about her experience overseeing students in Detroit, MI as part of the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT) initiative.

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Akilah Paramore

How and when did GDYT start?

This youth initiative was started by the City of Detroit and Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation (DESC) in 2015 to offer Detroit youth between the ages of 14-24 paid summer employment that involves career exploration and skill-building in four occupational training cohorts focusing on high-priority industries around the city, including:

  • Healthcare
  • IT
  • Construction
  • Customer service

To learn more about how the initiative started, read this previously published blog.

What is the goal of Grow Detroit’s Young Talent and who is eligible to participate?

GDYT aims to match Detroit youth with impactful employment and industry-led training opportunities that will increase each participant’s knowledge and skills needed to pursue higher learning and/or employment. The 6-week program employs youth for 20 hours per week Monday-Thursday, and includes 1 hour of live instruction with a facilitator and 4 hours of blended individual/teamwork. Participants are also responsible for submitting a final capstone project related to their chosen career track. Youth must apply online at between February and May and meet the following criteria:

  • Must live in the City of Detroit
  • Be between the ages of 14-24
  • Be eligible to work in the United States
  • Selection based on random lottery system

How did EDSI become a GDYT partner?

The City of Detroit recognized us as a quality provider of training to companies in many industries and invited us to partner with them in developing and deploying the online curriculum and Learning Management System for GDYT.

What has been your role in the program?

I started three years ago as an Instructor and I’ve been the Project Manager for the past 2 years. I work directly with the City of Detroit’s appointed site monitor who handles pay. I send them a badge report that reflects all the work for the day that was completed by each participant, including daily live session attendance. The site monitor pays them based on those details. I also oversee all the instructors who teach the courses as well as coordinate with the City to arrange for guest speakers from the industry, and I stand in as a substitute Instructor when needed.

What is different in the summer youth program now compared to when it first started?

About 140 youth were accepted into the 2022 summer GDYT program, compared to 80-100 in 2020 and 2021. The program continues to grow – this year we added the employer element, youth earn more money, and the LMS has increased user functions. The City of Detroit is asking that next year we increase our courses and number of cohorts offered within each occupational training industry, allowing more youth an opportunity to participate in the program.

Can you offer some insight into what the curriculum and eLearning approach entails?

Youth receive a combination of live, facilitated instruction and asynchronous, project-based learning activities that mimic real work environment experiences. With EDSI’s innovative training platform, Keywe, youth are able to engage digitally with instructors, other students and employers as they learn, collaborate and problem-solve. Keywe’s gamified system appeals to youth and there are some great learning incentives where they can earn digital badges to track their progress.

Our live facilitated sessions focus on a combination of career pathways, technical content introduction, and contextualized employability skills and use interactive features such as polling, chat rooms, videos, breakout rooms, and discussion opportunities in both large and small group settings. The self-paced project work combines some additional learning content as well as application-based activities. For example, in the Information Technology cohort, youth learn coding, create a game, design infographics, and develop their own website. Check out the image below showing our Keywe platform from the 2020 IT work experience.

Guest speakers and career panel discussions happen throughout the 6 weeks, connecting youth to local employers. The program concludes with a capstone project and presentation highlighting program work projects, certificates, what they learned, resumes, skills, goals, and next steps.

Tell us about the employer-sponsored component that was added this year.

A great new enhancement to this year’s program was our partnership with several local employers. With employers such as Carhartt, DTE, Verizon, Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford Health System on board, youth were able to experience the inner workings of a business environment in many different industries. Employers used the digital learning and collaboration platform, Solvably to introduce youth to a real industry problem that groups of 3-4 were tasked to work through and present solutions. In the end, the team with the best solution won a cash prize and gained valuable skills such as teamwork and problem-solving.

Check out this published article in the Michigan Chronicle featuring DTE’s involvement with youth at Cody High School during the GDYT program this summer.

To be considered as an employer partner, employers must submit a plan that outlines what the youth will learn and walk away with.

Can you share some program highlights?

First, the wealth of knowledge offered in GDYT is phenomenal. The amount of instructional materials and resources available to the youth are right at their fingertips and classes are recorded so they can re-access the live instruction piece and all assignments at any time up to 1 year in our Keywe platform.

Second, the access the youth have to industry professionals is very valuable. Many of the professionals act as mentors to the youth and they keep in touch. The guest speakers and instructors also make themselves available and offer their contact information so the youth can reach out at times when they need extra support, such as preparing for an interview.

What metrics can you share that support the success of the program?

The City of Detroit is very pleased with our partnership and the digital learning solutions we offer that help make the program a success. We were contracted to service 40 youth for each industry and 20 youth for Construction. The number of participants doubled from last year, growing by approximately 40%.

What are the youth saying about their experience in GDYT?

The youth complete a survey after finishing the program where they offer their feedback, including what they loved and offering any improvement ideas. Overall, the youth give the program high praise for the virtual platform, instructor accessibility and guest speakers.

Many times participants will email us months after the program is over asking for us to review their resume or to get interview advice. And of course, we are very happy to help them! Included below are two student testimonials about the impact of the program.

“The most impactful part of my GDYT journey this summer was being able to learn and practice valuable skills, such as being able to break into the workforce properly. Being able to learn and practice skills like resume building and how to navigate an interview were really important for me to learn. These are just a couple examples of skills that I’ve acquired that can help me in life.”
Cameron Cornelious

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“The most impactful part of my GDYT journey this summer was the plethora of information that was given in many aspects. Not only was I given information about IT jobs which will help me form my position on if I wanted to have an IT job or not, but I was even taught how to make a resume and good work practices. The information helps me "level myself up" and change my thinking around to take the information into consideration and for the better.” – Jamarr Stanford

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How do you think other cities could benefit from similar programming?

Any city would benefit from offering a program like this! Educating our young people about in-demand industries and offering paid summer programming provides so many benefits, including arming them with much-needed job readiness skills that many youth are lacking as young adults. Cities interested in starting up their summer youth program should research the industries that are booming in their region and then connect with employer partners to build a program that will educate young people about those industries and offer the training and skills they need to become successful.

The great long-term benefit of a program like GDYT is that employers often end up with a pipeline of job candidates who they can offer internships or jobs to when the time is right.

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