GRow1000 connects youth to jobs now and careers in the future

As of July 9, more than 1,000 young people have applied for jobs through GRow1000: Employing 1000 GR youth for a brighter tomorrow. The initiative targets youth ages 15 through 21 from the 49503, 49507, 49508, and 49509 ZIP codes, neighborhoods hit hardest by disproportionate outcomes, including COVID-19. Out of those applications, 903 youth have been qualified as eligible and 125 have received their new job assignments. To participate, youth must be between 15 and 21 years old as of July 22, live in the city of Grand Rapids, and be eligible to work in the U.S.


“I’ve been absolutely amazed by the response from young people to sign up for the program. It was just incredible,” says Lynn Heemstra, executive director of Our Community's Children, a collaboration between the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools that oversees the initiative. “Over 82% of the applicants have been persons of color. We’re very pleased about that. We really wanted this to meet the needs of young people who live in the City and typically do not have access to professional networks and employment opportunities that others might have.”


Those professional networks include 29 employers — foundations, manufacturers, healthcare, finance, contractors, and retail, among others. The City of Grand Rapids, Kent County, and Grand Valley State University are also on the list.The young people participating are working 20 hours a week over six weeks starting July 13, earning $10 an hour.


“Employers in the City of Grand Rapids are stepping up to the plate and committing to providing training that exposes young people to the range of opportunities within those organizations,” Heemstra says. “These are potential employees that could really benefit from the experience but also offer a great deal to the business or organization.”


While the age range is 15 through 21, Heemstra says that the program hopes to appeal to those who are on the older end of the range and struggling.


“The intent is to give them exposure to the types of careers that exist within organizations, not only provide workplace skills but also the lay of the land in terms of the potential careers that exist for them,” she says.


Our Community’s Children is overseeing web-based, virtual training that began on June 29 for youth already accepted into the program. They are learning about topics like workplace etiquette, safety, managing stress, and dressing for success. Heemstra hopes that the program extends past the summer until the goal of employing 1,000 youth is met.


“We are committed to ensuring that all of our young people have access to opportunities,” says City Manager Mark Washington. “We are grateful for our partners as we work together to give our community’s youth exposure and access to employment opportunities, practical knowledge and important connections that can prepare them for their future.”


“GROW 1000 really came together very quickly,” Heemstra concludes. “It’s been inspiring how the community, businesses, and nonprofits have come together to support this opportunity for young people.”


Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Interim Innovation News Editor

Photos courtesy City of Grand Rapids

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