Detroit Launches Workforce Program Skills for Life

The city is creating a job placement and training program with some of its federal pandemic relief funding. City officials say the program will create about 2,200 jobs, with most workers going into the city’s General Services department. 

Detroit is launching a three-year initiative funded by federal pandemic relief dollars. The Skills for Life job placement and training program aims to put 2,200 Detroiters to work at various city jobs like cleaning up commercial corridors and landscaping public properties.   

City officials say the program will help Detroiters overcome barriers to work or school. Candidates can get assistance with child care and transportation as they get certified in various skilled trades.  

City of Detroit/Flickr
City of Detroit/Flickr

“The typical problems that so many Detroiters face — no way to have their kids taken care of if they go to school after work. No way to get transportation from work to another site and then get to pick up their kids. All of those barriers we intend to address,” says Nicole Sherard-Freeman, the group executive for Jobs, Economy and Detroit at Work. 

Andrew Jones operates construction equipment. He says the city helped him get training to advance his career.  

“There’s certain barriers and things and obstacles that’s there that can be knocked down, and [the city is] doing that,” Jones says.  

Elisha Hines-Jones participated in the pilot program. She says she’s learning how to drive a truck.  

“I am in class right now. I am driving. I am learning different skills. I am ready for heavy-duty machinery or whatever comes next because this is an excellent program. If I can do it, you can do it, too,” Hines-Jones says.  

Since working with the city since last year, Hines-Jones says she’s been promoted to crew foreman and the pilot has provided even more opportunities such as learning financial literacy and math and English comprehension. 

Participants will work three days a week with the city’s General Services Department, in jobs focused on blight remediation, grounds maintenance and other beautification activities. The other two days a week, workers will participate in paid training, including completing GEDs or high school diplomas, earning a commercial drivers license and learning to operate other equipment needed to work in skilled trades. 

City of Detroit/Flickr
City of Detroit/Flickr

“There is no industry more in-demand right now than skilled trades – both at a local and a national level,” says Brad Dick, group executive for Services and Infrastructure. “Skills for Life participants are going to be offered training in skilled and other trades along with IT and other highly in-demand careers. Learning the skills and getting the experience and qualifications that employers in this sector look for, all while providing a service that is critical to our city right now.” 

Detroit is set to receive $826 million in federal pandemic relief. The city allocated up to $75 million toward the program, which comes from the American Rescue Plan.  

Mayor Mike Duggan says some of that will fund the job placement program. Candidates will be paid $15 an hour. 

“We are going to clean blight from the city, and we’re going to raise the skills of our residents,” Duggan says.  

The American Rescue Plan Act is also supporting roof repairs in Detroit. Other funding will go towards expanding internet access and small business grants.  

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  • Dorothy Hernandez

    Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played '80s music in the middle of the night.