In Detroit and other Michigan cities, employers are struggling with a talent shortfall that limits their growth and that of the overall economy. Without key skill sets and professional experience, there is little hope for many of Detroit’s youth to secure the caliber of employment that will enable them to break the cycle of poverty that is so pervasive throughout the city. The universal request from the business community is to provide young people who graduate with ready-to-work job skills, good character, integrity, punctuality, communication skills, and an understanding of basic work culture. 


A recent study issued by Detroit Future City states: “To bring Detroit’s share of middle-class households in line with the regional share, an additional 33,800 middle class households of all races would be needed.”(1) In order to do this, it is important to give students exposure to career industry options at young ages so they can begin pursuing their interests early. Bringing the classroom together with the workplace may seem like an easy process, but in practice it can be complicated. The goal is to expose students to contacts and people they would not normally have access to, introduce them to career options they may not have previously considered and teach them how to build a network all while imparting viable business skills in hands-on situations like internships and work programs. This not only enriches their school and learning experience, but it also increases their employability and helps them develop critical skills that are valued in the workplace (like punctuality, problem-solving and collaboration skills). 


Additionally, there is a growing trend of high school graduates choosing to go into trade fields, such as electrical contracting or construction, and begin working in their field of choice after graduating. The idea of gaining experience in a chosen field while obtaining certification and/or licensure is appealing to many who have a need to support themselves while continuing their learning journey.


In response to these needs and trends, some schools have begun to offer career-focused learning plans, particularly in high school. This option is available to students who wish to gain exposure and experience in a particular field of interest. Partnerships between schools and companies help create opportunities for students to meet executives, build relationships and work as interns in various departments. 


The added benefit of these programs is the boost to the local economy through companies who have a desperate need for skilled workers. They have an opportunity to train and hire young people with a drive and desire to grow within their industry. Offering training camps and internships gives these businesses the chance to increase their employment pipeline and potentially boost the economic progress of the Detroit area as a whole. 


Cornerstone’s Career Pathways offers job training, internships and other career exposure opportunities to our students through several companies who have partnered with us to provide these experiences. Organizations like Beaumont Hospital, Douglas Electric, the Detroit Zoo and others offer students the chance to get hands-on experience doing a variety of jobs and working closely with professionals in the field. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has taken an extra step and now offers a “Spring Training” to selected students who are interested in an apprenticeship in the trade. Career Pathways also invites executives from a variety of businesses and career fields to come speak to the students, allowing them to learn about options, ask questions, build relationships and gain networking skills. Our businesses and partners care about these students. They genuinely want the best for these students and it’s that emotional connection that helps the most. Developing these partnerships throughout the community is one of the ways Cornerstone is helping ensure the future of Detroit is a thriving, successful society with promising futures and fulfilling lives.


Source: Detroit Future City Report: “Growing Detroit’s African American Middle Class – The Opportunity for a Prosperous Detroit”, February 17, 2019