Detroit youth explore real-world opportunities with Marathon Petroleum

Community News

Detroit, Michigan, foundation, people
Shift Foreman Bryan Cheney meets with one of the students during the mock interview and resume review session.
  • Marathon Petroleum’s Detroit refinery hosted students for an onsite workforce development program to give them hands-on experience and teach them soft skills for their future careers.
  • The young adults were part of the Grow Detroit Young Talent  (GDYT) and Detroit Youth Service Corps (DYSC) programs.
  • The six-week summer program gave the students an opportunity to learn about refining, welding, vehicle maintenance and safety procedures as well as creating resumes, interviewing and community service.

A six-week program at Marathon Petroleum’s Detroit refinery is opening the eyes of students in two youth programs and may open the doors to future career opportunities.

Grow Detroit Young Talent (GDYT) and Detroit Youth Service Corps (DYSC) programs had a combined 64 participants at the refinery over the summer. The group was able to experience firsthand and even contribute to work at the facility. They also learned soft skills to apply to their future careers.

“This was definitely a great experience,” said Celeste Salazar, 22, studying Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State. “This was more hands on than some other companies offer.”

Students from the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program during a session with the Operations department.

The participants spent the summer learning about the different departments at the refinery, covering refining 101, tech services, safety, maintenance, engineering and operations. Under supervision, they learned how to change the oil on the refinery vehicles, how to weld pipes, and how engineers plan out their projects. They learned the meaning of hazard symbols and how the fire department members are specifically trained to respond to different emergencies.

“It makes me feel really good to know that we are helping invest in these young people who are from Detroit in a very real and impactful way.”

“We worked together as a group on a project converting 9,000 files into an archive system for easy searching,” said Javonte Jackson, 18, Grand Valley State University. “During the assignment, we found an easier way to complete the conversions. It was a real job that will help other employees at the refinery in the planning process.”

Operations Excellence Trainer Matt Johnson was impressed with the students from GDYT who took part in his operations overview session.

“They were very engaged and curious and willing to learn,” said Johnson. “They were impressed with the focus on safety that we have here at Marathon. They heard it in every session. I think it really changed their perspective about what we do here and how we do it.”

The six-week summer program gave the students an opportunity to learn about refining, welding, vehicle maintenance, safety procedures as well as creating resumes, doing interviews and community service.
The refinery’s firefighters gave the participants a lesson in emergency response.

The participants also volunteered with refinery employees and contractors for two Neighbors Helping Neighbors home and lawn maintenance events hosted by the refinery. Some of the participants helped distribute healthy home kits and installed air filters for community members. They also received professional headshots to use on their LinkedIn profiles and sat for mock interviews with refinery leaders.

“It was my first time to go through an actual interview,” said Ashleigh Wright, 18, University of Michigan - Dearborn. “We got professional resume reviews. After the interview, I received great feedback that will really help me succeed.”

Corporate Social Responsibility Representative BreAnna Lockhart checks in with students during their fourth week of the program.

The participants said that even though their college majors didn’t all align with the departments at the refinery, they each learned something that they’ll keep with them forever.

“I’m studying psychology, a pre-med track,” said Jackson. “During Engineering Week, Kathy in Document Controls was dropping life knowledge on us. She was sharing how to handle actual situations in life. How to act in the workplace. It was meaningful on a personal level.”

During the final week of the program, the Mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan visited the students during a session at the Kemeny Recreation Center near the refinery. The students shared what they worked on during the summer and gave the mayor some ideas to continue making improvements in their neighborhoods and the city overall.

Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit visits with the participants at the Kemeny Recreation Center.

“The ideas were flowing,” said Corporate Social Responsibility Representative BreAnna Lockhart, who oversees the program at the refinery. “It was great to see them connect and really open up. These students have grown so much over the summer, and I look forward to seeing what they achieve after graduation.”

GDYT is a citywide summer jobs program in Detroit that trains and employs young adults ages 14-24, though participants at the refinery are age 18 and over. Wayne State University’s DYSC program also employs young adults ages 17-24 and provides them with opportunities to develop life and career skills and give back to the community. The Detroit refinery supports both initiatives through grants and its workforce development program.

“It makes me feel really good to know that we are helping invest in these young people who are from Detroit in a very real and impactful way,” said Johnson. “They truly appreciated the employees investing their time into their growth on a personal level, giving them life experiences and going out of their way to talk to them.”

(L to R) GDYT participants Javonte, Celeste, Cornelius, Razaun, Ira, Ashleigh, Bryan, Ja’Cara, and Cannon.
Engineer Nick Moll took the participants to the top of the Coker Unit during Engineering Week.