Millennials make up the largest share of the U.S. workforce — the generation is expected to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025 — and the future of work in Michigan will depend upon keeping young professionals here. So, how can business leaders and key stakeholders convince millennials to plant their roots in Michigan?
One Detroit producer and Future of Work host Will Glover sat down with Marjace Miles of Let’s Detroit, who works within Ford Motor Company’s Marketing Leadership Program, about millennial migration trends in the workforce and his efforts to attract more young professional millennials to Michigan.
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They talk about Miles’ personal journey and what made him choose to stay in Michigan after college, as well as his ambassador work with Let’s Detroit helping to attract young professionals to Detroit for the long term. Plus, they discuss the misconceptions many non-Michigan residents may have about the state and how businesses in the state can invest in and attract millennials to Michigan’s workforce.
This conversation comes from One Detroit’s Future of Work town hall “Millennials on the Move: Making Michigan Home.” Watch the full town hall on-demand now.
Will Glover, Producer, One Detroit: Just tell us about a little bit of your journey. Were you born and raised here? Have you been here the whole time? Have left and come back?
Marjace Miles, Let’s Detroit/Ford Motor Company: Yeah. So, yep, born and raised here in Metro Detroit. Spent most of my life in Oak Park. I went to Ferndale high school for high school. Went to Wayne State University for undergrad. I went to the University of Michigan Law School of Business for my MBA. So, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan.
Will Glover: What about Southeast Michigan, the Detroit area has kept you here? Because, again, you have options.
Marjace Miles: Marketing and marketing within an automotive industry was really appealing to me. I mean, that’s an industry that is growing and evolving each day. And so, for me, what’s best for my career and what’s best for my family, is chasing after that.
Will Glover: In your experience, because you’ve been here, you’ve been in the industry and you’ve played multiple roles in the industry as well. Have you seen that there are opportunities for millennials who are at a professional level as you are? Has that been something that you’ve noticed? Like, you know, obviously you’re doing well, but there are other opportunities for people.
Marjace Miles: For so long. we’re expecting that big fish that, you know, Amazon World headquarters 2.0, remember when that discussion happened? But that’s not how we’re set up, not as a region, not as a city. We’re set up like the bad boys. We’re set up like the Pistons, where you have one small piece added to another piece, added another piece.
Will Glover: Part of one of the things you do, as we said also in the open, is your work with Let’s Detroit. You said you’ve been doing that for a couple of years. So, just tell us, for those who are unaware, what is Let’s Detroit, and what your role is as an ambassador?
Marjace Miles: Yeah, Let’s Detroit is a part of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and really, Let’s Detroit is just a connector. Detroit, metro Detroit it’s small to us locals but for transplants, people trying to enter this area, it can be pretty big. I mean, it’s hard to find your network, the best companies to work for, places to visit, organizations to create an impact on. And what Let’s Detroit’s goal is, is to make that easier. They want to connect young professionals, like myself, to other young professionals, point blank period.
What they’re finding is, we can Google best restaurants to go to, you can linkedIn best places to work, but when it comes from somebody that’s experienced it, myself, it is more impactful. I’ll give you examples: I’m a black male, I’m married, I live in the suburbs, I work in automotive. That’s my experience, it’s unique and I can share that gospel of Detroit with, let’s say ten people at different bars and networking events, but that only goes so far. What Let’s Detroit is equipped to do, is amplify that.
Will Glover: What kind of difference does it make to actually have a real-life person help you figure these things out when you’re essentially considering and looking into what is a major life shift?
Marjace Miles: This might be a millennial answer, but I think connections are important. I mean, as we’re making these decisions, it’s a lot harder to leave an area if you have those emotional and real connections to the area. And the only way to create it is not through a Google search, it’s with somebody like myself or other Let’s ambassadors showing you around. I’ll give one example not directly associated with Let’s Detroit, but at Ford, we have interns. They come in every year for 11 weeks. Over the last few years, they’ve been remote. We’ve only got a chance to bring them here for a week at a time or even a weekend at a time.
Last year, when we had our interns come in for only four days, well, first of all, we packed so much until four days, I don’t know how they survived. We floated the Huron River, we took them to the DIA, we took them to sporting events, we had a barbecue. But, the amount of time that people said, “I did not know Detroit has so much to offer.” “Wow. I did not know that the riverfront was so cool.” I didn’t know, and this is a quote, “I didn’t know Michigan had beaches.”
Will Glover: How often do you encounter that type of thing? Because when you say someone was unaware that Michigan has beaches and Michigan has the world’s largest freshwater coastline, it just doesn’t– is that a common thing where people are just lacking what we think is basic information about this place?
Marjace Miles: 100 percent. And it’s because for so long we haven’t controlled our narrative. I mean, there’s been stuff in the news, we can go into the social, political climate and things like that if we wanted to. But at the end of the day, the news has controlled what is Detroit, what is Michigan for way too long. And until we get to a place where we’re taking that narrative back, that’s what’s going to happen.
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