The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce is working to build on the success of its youth employment programs – namely the Summer Youth Initiative (SYI) – by adding more for-profit businesses into the mix of job opportunities.

The benefits for the area businesses include:

  • Increasing employers’ ability to train and retain its future workforce
  • Closing the talent gap by connecting job seekers with permanent open positions
  • Helping to boost the local economy by providing economic benefit to local families

And there’s a fourth potential benefit from the perspective of site selectors. Increased participation by the for-profit sector may, over time, help draw more business investment to Flint & Genesee as companies scout areas for possible expansion. That’s because the availability of skilled labor is rated as the number one “critical site selection factor,” according to a recent article in Area Development Magazine.

“Building a skilled workforce starts with providing opportunities for young people to get a foot in the door in different industries,” said Rhetta Hunyady, the Chamber’s Vice President of Education & Training. “SYI is a great way for employers to introduce and expose teens to the kind of job opportunities and requirements that exist in the for-profit sector.”

Each summer, SYI places between 500-600 teens in jobs with nearly three dozen agencies. Teens are hired through the annual SYI Job Fair and may be employed for 10-15 weeks, depending on the employer. Assignments have ranged from office work, to working with youth programs, to outdoor work. All SYI prospects are graduates of TeenQuest, the Chamber’s pre-employment and leadership training program that provides soft-skills and job-readiness coaching to teens from schools throughout Genesee County.

Traditionally, nearly all of the SYI teens have been employed in the nonprofit sector. Research shows that the best-practices for a sustainable workforce development program must also engage and cooperate with for-profit employers.

There’s an economic incentive for area employers. Participating for-profit employers are reimbursed for 50 percent of teen wages, allowing organizations to add to their capacity at little to no cost. Meanwhile, teens gain valuable work and networking experience, mentoring from an employer supervisor while earning up to $2,500 over the summer.

In addition, for every employee hired by a participating employer, the SYI program “earns” $1,200 - $1,500 to put toward the wages of an additional teen worker.

“SYI participation can help a business meet its personnel needs while also investing in the future workforce,” said Hunyady. “And we believe that such an investment will pay significant dividends over time.”

Click here to download an informational form about becoming an SYI employer.

To learn more about the SYI program contact Rhetta Hunyady at (810) 600-1412 or