Thursday, June 13, 2013

General Motors Begins Student Internship Program In Detroit

GM North America President, Mark Reuss,  announces
student internship program
Detroit's dismal employment outlook received a sliver of hope recently, as GM North America announced its intention to begin a program that directly hires high school-level students from the industrial city for internship projects that range across  the service and manufacturing spectrum.

The program, titled the GM Student Corps, will begin with 110 students overall, divided into teams of ten.  They'll be given projects around the city involving community development and outreach, and will also learn career and budgeting skills designed to prepare them for a global economic environment.  GM North America President Mark Ruess pitched the concept to GM CEO Dan Akerman, who approved the concept as long as the students were paid for their work; continuing GM's tradition of paid internships:

“We said hey, what’s the opportunity in the city in the summer? And there’s not a lot, as we all know...This will be the first job that a lot of these students have ever had that pays money.” 
-Mark Ruess to Nathan Bomey Detroit Free Press, May 21, 2013

While the students vetted were provided through the United Way Network, mentors consist of sixty GM retirees, as well as student interns from the University of Detroit Mercy. GM will also provide the program with Chevrolet vehicles to transport students and mentors to project sites.

This is an idea that's long overdue.  Long, long, long overdue.  I could get political about it and rant that if we're going to be a society that distrusts government to the point of inhibiting its ability to invest in  the youth for employment opportunities, then these are the types of programs that should be taking its place all over the country.  But really, it goes beyond politics.  The best kind of education is hands-on; students who take on various leadership roles throughout their communities always have a better chance at furthering employment prospects, because they are more adaptable and pliable than if the entirety of their learning experiences took place in the highly self-emphasizing vacuum of the academic bubble.  GM is smartly making the best kind of investment-people- in their backyard.  Sure, there's no guarantee these prospected students choose to keep their allegiance to the automobile giant (and Ruess emphasized they're free to list GM on their resumes, regardless).  Nevertheless, if half of this group decides to stay in Detroit and apply what they learn from this program in other fields, it can only help the city's overall infrastructure, which will help GM as well.  A win-win situation for everyone involved.

And this is only one company.  If the model becomes successful, there's no better way for Detroit to repair itself economically than to incentivize its manufacturing community to invest in its student community.  Or as Ruess himself says, "Imagine if we had five companies full-force....That's what happens with some of the seed ideas when you plant them."

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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