Experience for Young Residents

Continental Management's Summer Workforce Program provides valuable work and educational experience to Detroit youth.

Continental2015 IREM® REME Award Winner: Corporate Responsibility – People

Continental Management LLC

Bingham Farms, Mich.

Continental Management won a REME Award for Corporate Responsibility for its Summer Workforce Program, which was created for 14- to 18-year-old teens who live in the company’s low-income communities. It was designed to provide valuable work and educational experience to inner-city youth who may not otherwise have this opportunity. The program started at four Detroit properties and successfully expanded to six.

“Our goal is to enable young individuals to develop useful grounds keeping, maintenance or office skills, and to build a foundation for soft skills such as teamwork, timeliness, conflict resolution and professionalism,” said Gary Offenbacher, CPM®, executive vice president with Continental Management. “It is our hope these skills translate into extended opportunities for these young people in the future. At Continental Management, we prioritize community impact, and this program has been a key contributor to the revitalization of the communities it serves.”

REMELogoMalachi Taylor, Summer Workforce member, said, “I’ve been in the program since it first began, and it’s been a great experience because it provided me with skills I use every day now. I also believe it’s a great way to get kids involved in the community.”

Providing Valuable Education and Experience

The program includes an application and interview process, followed by an orientation. It operates on a daily work schedule with trips to community events. These trips help individuals learn and grow their employment skills, with property management and industry training, career days and educational field trips. Outings include visits to the Michigan Science Center, Wayne State University and its planetarium, the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum and Detroit Tigers games, as well as Garden Day, a cooking class, and workshops on personal growth and responsibility, resume building, interview skills and financial literacy.

Corporate employees, property managers or maintenance supervisors attend program events and speak about workplace values and career paths. Ultimately, Continental Management wants to demonstrate the benefits of continuing education and starting a career. The program gives young individuals exposure to positive and safe community locations in a teamwork environment, and an alternative to potentially harmful outside factors, such as drug or gang involvement.

“I’d like to congratulate the Summer Workforce Program on its success,” said Van Fox, president. “Our young residents have exciting adventures and visit interesting and fun places. They get to know each other, learn how to use new tools, work with their hands, and most important, they get to know their neighbors.”

Impact on Community and Corporate Culture

The program has had a remarkable impact on communities. It has also transformed Continental Management into a company dedicated to giving back to its communities. Many employees are mentors, guiding young residents on their journeys through the program. “We’ve seen a great transformation with our kids,” said Offenbacher. “They’re excited about property management and about their communities. It hits right on our core values—which is to go beyond just providing housing and actually help people with life skills and opportunities.”

Three individuals have gone on to achieve full maintenance positions with Continental Management. When the program started in 2012, 16 youths were participating, and it has nearly tripled in size. Parents appreciate the opportunity to keep their kids occupied, while youths gain valuable work experience and a sense of pride and accomplishment. The program has also helped increase resident retention.

Continental Management plans to expand the Summer Workforce Program to a year-round mentorship program. “It’s a huge success and a rewarding experience for both young residents and employees,” Offenbacher said. “We hope that others in the affordable housing industry will take on similar programs that have such a lasting impact on the communities we serve.”

A video about the Summer Workforce Program is available at www.irem.org/remewinners.

The IREM® REME Awards recognize real estate management companies and individual practitioners for innovative, leading-edge, business practices and initiatives.  For more information about the 2016 IREM® REME Awards, visit www.irem.org/REME.

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