Program ties financial literacy to summer jobs

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Program ties financial literacy to summer jobs

By Susan Tompor
Detroit Free Press


It’s summer and the job hunting isn’t easy.


But some metro Detroit business leaders are making extra efforts to drum up a few more summer jobs for teens.


Open a savings account, get a job?


It’s not quite that easy, but a new program in Westland ties financial literacy with summer jobs for 15 teens.


As part of the deal, the students — ages 16 to 18 — must open a savings account and attend at least one financial literacy session presented by Fifth Third Bank.


“We’ve challenged them all to save,” said Lori Fodale, economic development director for the City of Westland.


The partnership includes Fifth Third, the City of Westland, the Westland Chamber of Commerce and Wayne-Westland Community Schools. The employers — which include Biggby Coffee, the Marquette House assisted living center and Nankin Hardware — pay minimum wage. No tax money is used. James Allen, financial center manager for the Fifth Third Westland branch, said many students lack experience with bank accounts.


To encourage good work habits and savings, the program includes a contest in which the winner will receive an Apple iPad, courtesy of Fifth Third.


Mohamad Elfakir, owner of the Biggby Coffee in Westland, said he’s participating because he believes such programs can encourage young people to learn to come to work on time and develop good work habits.


Elfakir says the effort is an “innovative and cutting-edge” program for Westland.


Cutting-edge ideas are definitely needed this summer if teens are to do more than just cutting lawns.


Business, community leaders try to conjure up summer jobs


This is the kind of year in which teens aren’t the only ones trying to be creative when it comes to jobs.


Some business and community leaders are trying to think outside of the summer jobs sandbox, too.


Ever think of asking businesses just to send money to create some extra jobs?


Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit Workforce Development Board Corp. are making a direct appeal for business and community leaders for cash to pay for a summer jobs program.


“It’s a solicitation, if you will,” said Calvin Sharp, executive vice president for human resources for the Penske group. The Penske Automotive Group in Bloomfield Hills on behalf of Roger Penske made a cash donation of $15,000 to fund 15 teens during the summer.


“The best thing you can do is give kids a chance to see what the world of work is like,” Sharp said.


Stephanie Foley, 16, is one teen who is glad that a creative idea in Westland gave her a shot at a job at the Marquette House assisted living center.


As part of a financial literacy-jobs partnership, she’s required to open a savings account at Fifth Third Bank.


“I kind of like it,” said Foley, who will enter her junior year in the fall at John Glenn High School in Westland.


Foley started her first job last week and is expecting to work 16 hours a week for six weeks this summer, making $7.40 an hour.


Her check will be directly deposited into her bank account.


“I don’t even have a chance to have it in my hands to spend,” she said. “If I had it in my hands, I would just blow it.”


This way, she said, she will be better able to save for a car and help her mother pay for gas.


Business leaders and others across Michigan are looking at new ways to give students work experience — even when the economic recovery appears touch-and-go.


Quicken Loans decided to have nearly 200 college interns this summer in Detroit — up from about 25 last year when the company was moving from Livonia to its downtown Detroit headquarters.


Michelle Salvatore, director of recruiting for Quicken Loans, said the idea is to get the students interested in Quicken and Detroit — and possibly encourage them to stay in Michigan once they graduate.


The students have a chance to learn the business, and Quicken has a chance to learn more from the students about social media and technology.


Salvatore noted that Quicken founder and chairman Dan Gilbert has dubbed Woodward as “Webward” and sees offering paid internships as part of growing the business.


One intern, for example, is working directly with the vice president of mortgage banking.


Many businesses, of course, are more reluctant to add summer help.


“Businesses obviously had to scale back their expense levels to survive the ’08 meltdown,” Sharp said.


Managers and business owners remain skittish about adding extra expenses, too, and youth unemployment is rising, with only about a third of 16- to 19-year-olds across the U.S. even looking for work.


Even with concerns about the strength of the recovery, Sharp said some business leaders believe that a public-private initiative to raise money for summer employment in Detroit could be a good way to bridge the gap.


Sharp said special efforts are needed to run a summer youth program in Detroit.


“Normally, the government would come through with some dollars to support this,” Sharp said.


Federal money will cover about 1,300 summer jobs in Detroit this year — down from about 3,500 jobs last year and as many as 7,000 in 2009.


Sharp, who is chair of the finance and contracts committee for the Detroit Workforce Development Board, said he believes the group will be close to making its goal, in part, because he expects that other board members will step up and make donations.


It’s a new idea and one that has yet to gain much traction.


“Phones are not ringing off the hook,” said Pamela Moore, who runs the Detroit Workforce Development Department. “People are not rushing to donate money.”


“We just hope that some folks step up,” she said.


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