The Rocket Community Fund’s partnership with Urban Alliance (UA) has been an integral relationship in our efforts to strengthen pathways to employment through quality education and job training opportunities. UA provides underserved youth with access to work experience, support and training needed to prepare them for lifelong economic self-sufficiency. The program has over two decades of success in improving post-high school outcomes for its students, with 100% of UA students graduating high school and more than 90% gaining acceptance to college.
Along with other founders, we brought UA to Detroit in 2018, and the Rock Family of Companies served as the anchor employer for UA interns. This program provides participants with unique skill-building and development opportunities within the Family of Companies while also affording our team members mentorship opportunities. Since the 2018 pilot in Detroit, this partnership has evolved and flourished – which has been critical to not only to the success of the program, but our ability to pivot in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Internship + Mentorship Experience
Most recently, two of the UA program participants who intern at the Rock Family of Companies this summer were hired on as full-time team members. One of them was Mark Turner, a UA intern on the engineering and helpdesk teams at Bedrock. Upon completion of his internship, Turner was offered a full-time position as a Technical Support Specialist at Bedrock. “Working in the Family of Companies has definitely impacted my professional development in a positive way,” said Turner. “Participating in meetings and balancing the responsibilities of being a student and an intern has improved my time management skills and patience, and being able to have that mentorship experience in a business environment was environment was extremely rewarding.”
The feeling is mutual for the mentors. “I’ve loved my experience serving as a UA mentor throughout the past two years and can honestly say that each of our Bedrock UA Interns have impacted me, just as much as I hope I’ve impacted them,” said Alex Schalk, a Senior Talent Development Partner at Bedrock who also served as Mark Turner’s mentor.
“During his two internships with us, Mark displayed his knowledge and passion for technology,” Schalk said. “His understanding and knowledge of the technology we used at Bedrock grew to where Mark was taking on some of the more difficult tickets and resolving them for his clients. My team and I were extremely excited that we could add Mark to the team full time and can’t wait to see his accomplishments over the next couple years!”
Another UA intern, Jamaria Monroe, was also hired into a Client Relations role. Her mentor, Team Leader Veronica Williams, said that Jamaria’s inquisitive mind and eagerness to learn new skills helped propel her to success. “She was always very engaged, hard-working and consistent,” Williams said. She also believes the UA internship program is vital for students to know that they have a place within the Family of Companies, and this internship “has the opportunity to make a major impact on their lives and future careers.”
Our 2020 Urban Alliance Partnership
As with so many of our programs and initiatives, we’ve had to change our approach to account for health and safety considerations. For one, we’ve extended the work-readiness curriculum and added additional technology training for up to 20 students. Ten from this group will be placed in technology-focused internships. The reason behind this was to better prepare the students for what will likely be an all-virtual or hybrid internship. Additionally, the Rock Family of Companies will be recruiting UA alumni for our regular summer internship program. Some of these interns are offered the option to return for additional internships or even open employment opportunities.
Our recruiting efforts have expanded from the original three high schools so we can reach more students and specifically target those who are interested or have experience in a particular industry – such as students studying HVAC or electrical at Randolph Career Technical Center, or students studying technology at Cass Tech or Central High School. There is also a more concerted effort in identifying business areas that have a higher potential to hire on interns as full-time team members.
The focus on skill-building has not changed. The paid UA internship provides students with the tools and resources they need for entering the workforce, including building upon their foundational, work-readiness and technical skills. It allows them to explore their career interests and build long-lasting professional relationships. “Whether our interns move on to post-secondary education, military, or the working world, our goal is to enhance student’s preparedness through career skill development in order to create a stronger pipeline of competitive workforce candidates,” said Jayme Danzig, Director of Education and Employment at the Quicken Loans Community Fund.
One of the most important features of the UA internship experience is the mentorship component. Each student intern is assigned to a mentor who supports them throughout the course of their internship. The mentor serves as both coach and leader, assigning tasks, providing feedback and offering developmental support. This relationship is a vital part of the intern’s professional growth and development.
Indeed, the internship with Urban Alliance has the potential to be profoundly impactful on both the interns and the team members who mentor them. Creating virtual environments conducive to skill-building, professional development and career exploration will be critical. But equally important is the relationship-building component of the program. Schalk said the most important thing she learned throughout her time serving as a UA mentor was that the “voice” the interns believe in will determine their experience. “It’s not what we have, or what we know. It’s what we give them that makes this internship so impactful.”