The Summer Youth Nonprofit Work Experience is a collaborative effort sponsored by the DTE Energy Foundation through the United Way of the Lakeshore in partnership with Michigan Works! in both the West and West Central regions. Teens and young adults are placed at different nonprofit organizations to work 32 hours per week for six weeks during the summer. These are hard to place young workers from low socio-economic backgrounds who might not have had a work opportunity if not for the Summer Youth Nonprofit Work Experience. The recently released Kids Count Databook for 2016 shows that nearly one-in-four Michigan youth are living in poverty. Those numbers are even more daunting for our region. This concerns us as we work to inspire change and build thriving communities. The research shows that at-risk youth who miss out on an early work experience are more likely to endure economic instability and unemployment later in life. At the United Way of the Lakeshore, we have a bold goal to see 10,000 more working families are able to meet their basic needs by 2025. That’s why this program is vital. It helps to change the trajectory for many youth.
For the summer employment program, low income youth employees aged 16-24 are recruited by Michigan Works! in target areas like Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Big Rapids, and Baldwin, and Oceana and Newaygo Counties. This year we are also adding a few new positions from Kent County as well, making this a 6-county program.
Besides employment, the youth are also enrolled in on-going career development in areas like interviewing, building a resume, developing a list of references for prospective employers; and, they are also provided with supportive services that include remediation, clothing for work, credit recovery, and other areas. The aim of these efforts and services are to help youth fully participate and be successful. In addition to the work experience and career development, each week the summer nonprofit employees also have workshops where soft and hard skills are emphasized. The workshops follow a curriculum from the Michigan Works! JMG (Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates) program that includes soft skills like: team building, appropriate communications, and being on time and time management; and, hard skills like banking and budgeting, writing, customer service, character building, dressing appropriately for the workplace, and cultural skills in anti-bullying, diversity and inclusion, were also part of the training.
New features of this year’s program include: a parent orientation to what their student youth will be exposed to in career and college development; awareness of curbing racial bias; and, we’ll be developing a video to showcase the program and its assets.
With Michigan Works! as collaborative partners, the DTE Energy youth employees are dual enrolled in the Michigan Works! Workforce Investment Act Program. This gives youth the opportunity to continue their involvement in youth services after the summer employment program while they complete high-school, enroll in post-secondary education, or gain long-term employment.
Our United Way provides staff support to the weekly programming in Muskegon around service learning to engage the youth in planning and project development, presenting their projects to local City Councils and the County Commisssion, recruiting volunteer support, engaging the media and completing the project as a team. We expect to engage the community, the nonprofits in the community and a team from the National Community Conservation Corps of the Corporation for National Service. In the northern area, we will again engage a partnership with the Seeds Program – also a national service program – that collaborates to provide transportation to the youth. In addition, the youth in the Seeds program earn scholarships for educational training. We expect to have youth employed in public service in Oceana and Newaygo Counties as well. In Mecosta County we will have summer participation at the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University. Lastly, this year we also expect to have two youth employed at a nonprofit in Grand Rapids.
See the signing agreement here.
Inquiries about the DTE Energy-United Way-Michigan Works! summer job program may be directed to:
K.P. Pelleran, Director of Planning, Advocacy & Grants
United Way of the Lakeshore