Jhamir Price and Kylie Sadler-Smith still speak with some disbelief about the path that led them to paid internships at the downtown Detroit headquarters of the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Quicken Loans, during their senior year of high school.
“I was really nervous,” Kylie recalled about first applying, unsure if the opportunity would be everything she hoped.
A few months later, it turns out she had nothing to fear.
“I get excited when I go to work,” Kylie said. “My Urban Alliance experience has been fulfilling because I have learned a lot more than I expected.” Dozens of internships – just like Kylie and Jhamir’s – are the result of Quicken Loans’ new partnership with Urban Alliance (UA) to make a purposeful investment in creating economic opportunity for Detroit’s youth.
Just a few years ago, stories like Jhamir and Kylie’s were rare in Detroit, which had one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country. Now, as the youth unemployment rate has dropped to 9%, Detroit is the epicenter of a burgeoning youth employment ecosystem. Even with the wealth of new jobs, opportunities for youth in Detroit’s most vulnerable neighborhoods remain a challenge. About one in eight young people aged 16-24 in Detroit are disconnected – neither working or in school, significantly impacting their ability to achieve economic self-sufficiency. In 2018, Quicken Loans – through its philanthropic arm, the Quicken Loans Community Fund – partnered with Urban Alliance to bring these young residents access to jobs and training that will benefit them for a lifetime.
Urban Alliance and Quicken Loans share a common mission of empowering their local communities by providing residents access to economic opportunities. Urban Alliance was founded in 1996 with a simple promise to a Washington, D.C. student who said she and her peers needed access to meaningful jobs to succeed. Building on that first commitment, Urban Alliance has since provided paid professional internships to nearly 5,000 youth in D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, Northern Virginia, and now Detroit through direct partnerships with hundreds of major companies across those regions – significantly impacting the success of participants following their graduation from high school.
Quicken Loans also has a deep history of investing in, and opening doors to opportunity in, its hometown cities through the work of the Quicken Loans Community Fund. Operating under a For-More-Than-Profit philosophy, Quicken Loans brings together for-profit businesses and non-profit investments to build social and financial opportunity. Quicken Loans is the largest employer in Detroit – with 17,000 team members – and the largest minority employer. It is also committed to ensuring that the jobs it is creating are accessible to Detroit youth. Over the next several years, Quicken Loans will create thousands more jobs in construction, customer service, and IT. In order to increase accessibility to these jobs, Quicken Loans has invested more than $200 million to Detroit organizations and programming since 2010. Primarily, these investments strive to build alignment between curriculum and industry needs, grow Career Technical Education options, and provide platforms to create meaningful mentorship.
The Urban Alliance model creates connections across all three of these goals.
Anchor Employer Model
Quicken Loans and Urban Alliance teamed up to bring UA’s flagship High School Internship Program to Detroit last fall, combining Quicken Loans’ deep roots in Detroit with Urban Alliance’s two decades of youth employment experience. The program provides opportunities for undeserved high school seniors who are at risk of disconnecting from work or further education. Beginning with a pilot group of 41 students, the program provides:
- A 10-month paid, professional internship
- Intensive job and life skills training
- One-on-one mentoring from adult professionals
- Post-high school planning support
- Lifelong college and career guidance
Quicken Loans hosts 1,500 summer and college interns annually, nearly 20% of whom hail from Detroit. Quicken Loans and its affiliated companies will host a minimum of 60 interns over the next two years through this more intensive, longer-term Urban Alliance partnership, with plans to grow. Anchoring the program with one major employer is a break from Urban Alliance’s traditional model, but with multiple students working with the same company, they can commute to work together, learn from one another, and build a community of peers to support each other, while Urban Alliance is able to customize its curriculum to more closely meet Quicken Loans’ needs. The large-scale partnership also makes additional extracurricular opportunities possible for students, increasing their exposure to opportunities around the city.
Quicken Loans and Urban Alliance joined forces to open the door to new possibilities for Detroit students, and ensure that every student remains on a pathway to self-sufficiency – whether that be college, living-wage employment, or vocational training. As the city continues to prosper, its corporate citizens must ensure that young Detroiters are prepared for and able to access new job opportunities. By connecting students to the companies powering the local economy, we are building a talent pipeline to not only fill the jobs of the future, but also inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to create them.
With 4.6 million young Americans disconnected from work and education, there is still a massive need for an effective and efficient way to connect them to opportunity. This kind of sustained, targeted collaboration model is a big part of the solution. Research indicates that the most effective youth employment models are comprehensive programs that engage youth through early intervention, and include paid work, mentoring, wraparound supports, and follow-up services.
Urban Alliance’s program is one of the few to combine these elements for low-income youth by bridging the gap between schools, employers like Quicken Loans, and students. These deeply-supported and carefully-mapped first job experiences prevent young people from becoming disconnected, serving as a catalyst for their long-term economic success. Kylie and Jhamir’s internships at Quicken Loans, through its partnership with Urban Alliance, have done just that – introduced them to the professional workplace, provided a network of support, and armed them with the professional skills needed to succeed in any future workplace. “It’s taught me how to be not only a better worker; it’s taught me how to be a better young man, honestly,” said Jhamir. “I feel like Urban Alliance is the program that every senior should be a part of… You know that you have that positive energy every time you come in every single day. “It’s been a good experience so far, and I can’t wait for it to get even better.”
Young Detroiters like Kylie and Jhamir are ready – ready to work, ready to be challenged and ready to shine. All they need is an open door.