Ypsilanti residents Autumn and Maddie Guthrie are both former SummerWorks interns who will return to the program this summer.
The SummerWorks youth employment and mentorship program is recruiting 130 young adults aged 16-24 in Washtenaw County for paid, on-the-job training opportunities this summer. Organizers are seeking local employers to host young people as interns and mentees.
SummerWorks is a partnership between the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, Michigan Works! Southeast, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and the University of Michigan. It has been pairing local young adults and employer-mentors for 10-week internships since 2016. The program's purpose is to arm young adults with essential training and experience that they can leverage throughout their career paths.
Youth interns are paid $15 to $17 per hour, depending on their completion of a high school degree. All SummerWorks interns are paired with an adult mentor and have access to weekly professional development sessions, career and professional networking opportunities, and job and leadership skills.
"This is really a meaningful, community-driven effort," says Kathleen Clancey, program manager for SummerWorks. "Whether you're a young person, a mentor, or an employer, there's something that everyone can do to play a part if you want to."
She adds that local youth are eager to develop skills and get into the workforce, and that SummerWorks has notable benefits to the local economy.
"We hear from companies all the time that it's been refreshing and invigorating to have our youth at their companies," she says. "Our youth are getting jobs and the experience they couldn't get on their own."
This has been true for 23-year-old Maddie Guthrie of Yspilanti. Guthrie is a university student who will participate in SummerWorks for her second year this coming summer. Three years ago, her now-18-year-old sister Autumn joined SummerWorks. Maddie Guthrie says that seeing her younger sister flourish in SummerWorks convinced her that she "had to get in on it." She did, and last summer Maddie Guthrie was offered a job after her internship. Today she is still working for the company that was her SummerWorks employer.
"Gen Z has a lot of personality and a lot of us are graduating soon. SummerWorks brings different generations and types of knowledge together," Guthrie says. "It's important that employers learn to work with us, and that we learn from employers who are great in their jobs right now."
Autumn Guthrie, who is also already enrolled in this year's SummerWorks program, agrees. Like her sister, she reports that the program has been life-altering.
"I went and registered to vote right after a seminar," she says. "Last year I learned a lot about finance. I know that I'm old enough for Roth IRAs this year."
Clancey says she is looking forward to offering similar opportunities this year. The deadline to apply to host a SummerWorks intern or mentee is March 17. She's encouraging potential employers and mentors who want to learn more about the program to register for an upcoming information session. Youth must apply here by March 24.
Jaishree Drepaul is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.