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Program aids economy, helps grads locate jobs

October 3, 2011

A new national program called Venture for America has the potential to benefit Michigan’s college graduates while helping to revitalize Detroit’s economy.

Founded earlier this year, the fellowship program helps pair recent college graduates with start-up companies in big cities that are looking to grow. After working in start-up businesses for more than a decade, founder Andrew Yang saw an opportunity to help struggling economies in low-cost cities.

“I encountered hundreds of young people who want to build businesses and create jobs,” Yang said. “I knew there were many companies that could use talented recent graduates to fuel their growth.”

The program is aided by MSU alumni, including Brandon Pollak, a member of Venture for America’s executive board, and Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans Inc., who is heavily invested in revitalizing Detroit, Yang said.

The graduating class of 2012 will be the first to have the opportunity to work with the program, Yang said. In the first year, Venture for America is working to place students in Detroit, New Orleans and Providence, R.I. Venture for America is the bridge between graduates and companies, he said.

“Each of those cities has a hub of exciting companies and entrepreneurs who were positioned to be able to take on recent college graduates and grow their companies,” Yang said.

Keeping talented graduates in the state is critical to helping the Michigan economy, said Theda Rudd, interim executive director for MSU Career Services & Placement.

“It’s a very noble plan,” she said. “I think that the government and the governor and lots of people are working to try and keep talent in mostly our state. It’s good business to keep people that have great talent and skill here.”

Many graduates are interested in staying in Michigan after graduation, Rudd said.

“There have always been people that want to stay in the state and want to stay near their hometown,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean that they will find what they are looking for or land the job they’re interested in, in any location.”

The program has plans to expand to other cities, including Las Vegas and Cincinnati in the near future, Yang said.

This year, Venture for America is looking to place about 50 graduates in jobs, he said. The program places people in a number of different jobs, about 40 percent of which are technical and 60 percent nontechnical, Yang said.

“There’s no specific major we’re looking for, (just) people who have the capacity to help (companies) grow,” he said. “We think people that study many different things are capable of that.”

Advertising freshman Julio Sotomayor said he likes the strategy behind revitalizing cities that have seen economic woes.

The program is important because each side helps the other out — graduates get jobs and desperate cities can get new life, Sotomayor said.

“There would be people getting jobs there, but the cities (themselves) would also be livelier,” he said. “There would be a different spirit within the cities.”

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