Today’s tech industry is booming, and Detroit is at the forefront of job growth in the field. But amid all the excitement, many are questioning how accessible these career opportunities are for city residents, especially youth.
Enter JOURNi, a non-profit organization dedicated to equipping young people with the tools and skills needed to jumpstart their local economies through tech.
After experiencing first-hand the doors technology-related careers can open, co-founder Richard Grundy knew he wanted to bring the same opportunities to youth in his hometown of Detroit.
“Being so resourceful and creative, if young Detroiters just knew about the tools and opportunities that technology careers offer, it could have a huge impact on their lives,” Grundy said.
Alongside his co-founders Brian McKinney and Quiessence Phillips, Grundy helped create the organization’s first program, which launched in summer of 2016. The organization has since grown to include a variety of summer and after-school coding classes that teach students the basics of computer programming, software development, and entrepreneurship through hands-on training and projects.
But for JOURNi’s participants, the program offers much more than just coding lessons. Group work and public speaking skills are also focal points in the curriculum, helping to ensure students know how to collaborate on ideas and communicate them clearly to potential employers or clients.
After getting comfortable with the basics of coding, students can also gain real-life experience through an employment program facilitated in partnership with Grow Detroit's Young Talent. Participants work in teams to create websites for local business, receive additional training, and earn an income during their summer break from school.
The possibilities the program offers also extend beyond traditional computer programming careers. For many of the young men, JOURNi offers an opportunity to explore future career paths and discover how their outside interest can benefit from their tech training.
“Before this course I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. JOURNi really opened my eyes and helped me get an understanding of what I wanted to do,” said LePhillip, a participant in this year’s training program.
As an artists, LePhillip plans on finding a way to use his new technical training to help leverage his artwork and share it with a larger audience.
The program also offers participants the ability to interact and learn from each other. If a student comes across a topic of interest that is not covered in class, instructors encourage them to teach it to their classmates.
“We learn a lot from each other. Sometimes, I’ll understand a topic really well and I’ll be able to help someone else out who may be struggling with it,” said Anferne, a student in JOURNi’s summer program and sophomore at Mumford High School. “It’s a good feeling.”
As part of the MBK Detroit Innovation Challenge, JOURNi expanded its programing and gained a deeper understanding for their work related to young men of color. Through interaction and partnerships with other members of this year's Innovation Challenge cohort, like Developing Despite Distance, the organization ensures that participants are receiving support inside and outside of the classroom.
Above all, JOURNi aims to give its participants the confidence to create. Regardless of what career path students choose to pursue, the hands-on training and collaborative opportunities help to unlock each student's creativity and allows them to discover the numerous ways technology impacts the world around them.
By equipping these young men with the skills and experience they will need to pursue future careers, JOURNi is preparing them for the road that lies ahead.