Investing In The Next Generation At The Rock Family Of Companies

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Dan Ngoyi, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at the Rock Family of Companies, reflects on the value of partnering with a workforce development organization to source talent.

At Rocket Mortgage and the affiliated companies comprising Rock Family of Companies, we know that true success lies in doing our part to ensure the communities that we operate in are thriving. Headquartered in Detroit, our family comprises approximately 120 companies – from Rocket Mortgage to Dictionary.com. Across them all, we operate under a “For More Than Profit” philosophy, which means that we believing in doing well by doing good.

At our headquarters in Detroit, where I serve as Vice President of Talent Acquisition, our commitment to creating economic opportunity for local youth is one of our most important priorities. One of the primary ways we have showcased that commitment is through a partnership with Urban Alliance. In conjunction with other funders (like the Skillman Foundation), we brought Urban Alliance and its signature High School Internship Program to Detroit in 2018. Our goal, in line with Urban Alliance’s mission, was to provide Detroit youth with the skills training, paid work experiences and professional networks needed to achieve economic mobility. In addition to funding the program, we became its anchor employer partner – the only company to do so throughout the country.

The Value of a Workforce Development Partnership

As the anchor employer, we host the majority of the Urban Alliance interns in Detroit across our organization. For us, this is more than altruism.

It is good business.

Taking on an intern is a small investment. When you compare the costs of time spend onboarding, training and paying an intern (all of our internships are paid positions) it doesn’t come close to the positive impacts each and every one of interns provide. In the short term, we get a young worker that is eager to dive into the work, wants to learn, and brings a fresh perspective to the organization. We get someone who comes from a different background and experience, bringing a unique perspective and helping us to innovate at the highest level.

In the longer term, we’re investing in our workforce. We are helping ensure a diverse and skilled talent pipeline for our companies for years to come.

Our partnership with a workforce development organization like Urban Alliance made establishing and sustaining this talent pipeline easy. The students have access to the ongoing support they need, and have all their resources centralized in one place. This enables them to fully engage with the program and their work with us. The large scale of our partnership also enabled Urban Alliance to customize their training curriculum to meet our needs, so the students come in with a standardized baseline of skills that we need in our workforce. Additionally, having so many Urban Alliance students at our companies allows them to build community and support each other!

So far, many of our Urban Alliance interns have since become full-time members of our team, and we expect that trend to continue to grow. Our leadership is excited by the program, and our staff is engaged and energized by the opportunity to connect with the students and serve as mentors to these young adults entering the workforce. In fact, one of our team members was awarded Mentor of the Year by Urban Alliance!

More broadly, as business leaders today know all too well, we are facing a massive skills gap in the United States. To ensure the success of our economy and country broadly, we all need the next generation to be prepared for success. Connecting young people to employment opportunities in their own backyards and giving them the opportunity to learn real work skills and manage real work challenges helps them to grow and helps us fully realize our collective future.

Doubling Down During COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit, business leaders had hard decisions to make quickly. For us, one of our first decisions was to ensure our interns could still earn a paycheck. We knew that most of them are from the communities hardest hit by the pandemic, and that 80% of them used their earnings to contribute to their household expenses. In fact, we increased our internship commitment over 40% to benefit the communities that need increased economic opportunity the most – primarily communities of color across our hometown of Detroit.

When social distancing measures began, our staff and interns shifted to working from home. We discovered that 1 in 3 of our interns did not have computers or access to broadband internet at home. We worked with our philanthropic arm, the Rocket Community Fund, to get permanent laptop donations for all our interns. We then worked with the interns and their families to help them enroll in the Comcast Internet Essentials program, which offers internet access at a low cost.

We believe that now is not the time to pull back investment from those who need it, especially the next generation. We need to double and triple down on our investments in our future leaders to ensure they make it through this challenging time. Without the ongoing support of businesses and communities, these students – specifically students of color – risk being left behind during our recovery.

Making the investment now in building a strong, equitable, diverse pipeline will lift communities for decades to come. We have already seen immediate returns in our community, in our workforce and across our businesses.

We hope you join us.