On Tuesday morning, Mayor Mike Duggan was joined by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu at a gathering of local business leaders hosted by Michigan Chronicle Publisher Hiram Jackson at the Detroit NAACP office building, located at 8220 2nd Avenue, to strongly encourage their participation in an effort to hire 8,000 Detroit kids in Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, a summer youth employment program due to begin in July.
The message was simple; Detroit kids need jobs, they want jobs, and it’s your job – as well as the job of any business leader who happens to be reading this story – to step up and help provide these jobs. Because an employed kid is a busy kid, and a busy kid is a kid who doesn’t have time to get into trouble. Which is a win for the kid and a win for the community.
But more important than simply keeping kids busy (and providing them with a paycheck), a summer job is a proven way of helping youngsters learn the essentials they will need to navigate the workaday world that will confront them once school days are behind them. Skills such as showing up on time, dressing appropriately, and correct workplace attitudes are skills that most working adults take for granted but too many young people know nothing about. But once they are shown the way, studies have shown that supervised, supportive exposure to employment can make all the difference in a kid’s life. As Mayor Duggan pointed out, it can actually make the difference between life and death.
“Last year through June, the murder rate in Detroit was up 10 percent over the year before, as it was almost everyplace in the country. When we hit July, Chief Craig and I said, ‘Oh my God, it’s gonna be a long, hot summer’. We hit the first week of July, and the homicide rate in Detroit went straight down. The lowest we’d seen in July in years. And we couldn’t figure it out, because the rest of the country continued to climb and we actually ended up with a homicide rate that was down last year, but we realized the week that it dropped? Was the week that the kids went to work. Was that a coincidence? I doubt it. So we’re gonna find out this July.”
The falling homicide rate that Detroit experienced in the summer of 2015 was also experienced under similar circumstances in the streets of Chicago in previous years, as was documented in a head-turning study produced by University of Pennsylvania Professor Sara Heller which showed that summer jobs for kids actually reduced violent crime in that city by 43 percent.
“A recent study, reminiscent of the Becoming a Man study—and by the same lead author, the University of Pennsylvania’s Sara Heller—brings very positive findings: a 43 percent reduction in violent crime among disadvantaged high school youth over a 16-month span, well after the skills program ended. And it suggests that there are different, equally effective routes to imparting those skills.
“Heller’s study, recently published in Science, examined One Summer Plus, a summer-jobs program open to students in high-violence Chicago public high schools. On average, the kids were 16 going on 17, with a C average, and having missed 29 days of school. Twenty-two percent had been arrested. In short, not lost kids, but “on the cusp,” to use Heller’s words.
“They were put through a straightforward summer jobs program: students got paid minimum wage to work engaging jobs—camp counselor, aldermanic assistant, community-garden work—with the assistance of a job mentor. In other words, it’s not just digging a hole to fill it back in.”
Last year was the first year Detroit participated in the program, providing 5,600 summer jobs to Detroit youth. Which looked like a good number to the Duggan administration until they found out that more than 11,000 kids had applied for those jobs.
“So that gives you an idea of the need,” said Duggan.
The goal for this summer’s 6-week long program is to provide 8,000 jobs, but Duggan said this cannot be done without the support of private enterprise, because the city has already taken on as many youth as it can handle in the police department, parks department, and wherever else.
“This has been part of a broader commitment by the Obama administration around the country to increase summer jobs,” said Lu, who added that the Department of Labor has allotted $20 million in grant money for the competitive grant program (meaning it’s no guarantee which cities will get some of the money), but “$20 million is a drop in the bucket to the amount that’s really needed. … It can’t just be a program dependent on federal money, it has to be a combination of federal money, state money, but more importantly having the private sector stepping up.”
Lu added that although he was grateful for those business leaders who took the time to show up, the outreach was intended not only for them but to any and all businesses in and around Detroit with the ability to hire a youngster – or two or three or four. Transportation is provided, so employers will not have to worry about how their young employees will get to and from work each day.
Start date for the program is July 6, and the new employees will be required to work 20 hours per week. The cost to each employer per hire is $1,700, however if an employer cannot afford that rate then the city will kick in half. To access available jobs, go to GDYT.org.