Of Detroit’s estimated 677, 116 residents, the largest age demographic is those under 18, making up 31.1 percent of the population. Those 25-44-years-old make up 29.5 percent of the city’s population and 18-24-year-olds compose 9.7 percent of the city. The median age in Detroit is 31 and Mayor Mike Duggan made it clear that he is focused on securing the future of the city’s younger generation during his sixth State of the City address at Detroit East English Village Preparatory Academy on the city’s far east side.
“We want to be a city that’s committed to creating job opportunities for everyone,” Duggan said to a crowd of about 700. “While that sounds like a slogan, we have to rethink everything we’ve done. With the historic levels of businesses coming in, those who stayed need the benefits. I want to make sure the people who have been here get the first shot.”
Duggan noted how more Detroiters are at work, compared to the past 10 years, but that Detroit still has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 8.5 percent. One way he is combating unemployment for the youth is through the Grow Detroit Young Talent (GDYT) program.
Now in its 5th year, GDYT is the lead coordinator, fundraiser and marketer for the city’s efforts to provide summer employment opportunities for youth ages 14-24. Prior to GDYT, approximately 2,500 Detroit youth would have summer jobs each year through a series of smaller independent programs. In 2018, 8,210 youth were employed at 669 work sites through 233 employers for six weeks and the mayor expects that number to be the same in 2019.
“When I was campaigning in 2013, so many kids came up to me in schools and their goal was to get out of Detroit,” Duggan said. “We need to change that and keep our talent here because way too much of our talent has left.”
Duggan also announced that the city is expanding the Detroit Promise, a program launched to provide graduates of any high school in Detroit the chance to attend college tuition-free. This fall, the program will expand to pay for community college certifications for skilled trades careers including welders, mechanics, emergency med tech, cyber security, overhead linemen and pharmacy technicians.
Ford Motor Company and the Community Benefits Ordinance agreed to an additional package of community benefits for the Ford train station, including $10 million to train and prepare students for the workforce at Golightly Education Center. Altogether, through fines from building contractors and donations, the city of Detroit has $20 million to train 1,000 students at several career technical centers across the city, including Randolph and Breithaupt.
Duggan also used his State of the City speech to address giving returning citizens and non-violent offenders a second opportunity. He told a story about him speaking at his alma mater, Michigan, and one of the students asked him about being the mayor of one of the more dangerous cities in America. He responded by asking the students who knew where to buy drugs on campus and 90 percent raised their hands.
“In upper-income suburbs and elite high school and college campuses, we got folks selling drugs to their friends with virtually no chance of ever being caught and they go on to respected careers,” Duggan said. “But a kid in Detroit is out on the corner and gets arrested, now he has a felony hung on him for the rest of his life. This isn’t right.”
“I believe deeply in banning the box. There are a lot of folks who have made mistakes in their younger days and they deserve another chance.”
Duggan announced plans to hire two full-time lawyers dedicated to helping people expunge criminal records. Those with one felony more than five years old and two misdemeanors more than five years old are eligible. He noted that one local company, Sakthi Automotive, has already committed to hiring returning citizens, hiring nearly 200 individuals in UAW auto parts jobs.
“People who are returning citizens have been marginalized for years,” said Duggan. “Last year, we placed more than 500 returning citizens into jobs.”