A statewide initiative could provide long-term employment for more
than 1,000 chronically unemployed and formerly jailed metro Detroit
Earn and Learn, a workforce development program
targeting males in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck, hopes to help
disconnected at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated and chronically
unemployed adults find and retain work.
Started in July, the
program has invested $13.2 million in the Detroit area, 60 percent of
the statewide total, and is a collaborative led by Southwest Solutions. The program hopes to serve 1,086 people through the end of 2013.
have been a lot of programs over the years trying to address this
problem and I think we as a society haven't gotten it right," said John
Van Camp, president of Southwest Solutions.
provides subsidized employment and support services, including skill
development, access to education, vocational and occupational training
and coaching for a year to find and keep long-term employment. Nearly
40 people have graduated from the first part of the program, a four-week
work readiness class to practice interview techniques, workplace
etiquette and to map out education plans.
coordinates the programs and opportunities in the public, private and
nonprofit sectors with partners that include Focus: HOPE, ACCESS, the Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and Detroit Workforce Development Department, training and education partners and employers willing to provide subsidized and unsubsidized opportunities to participants.
One-third of the funds for the program have been committed by Michigan's Workforce Development Agency to provide education and training and job development assistance; one-third has been committed by The Open Society Foundations' Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation, administered by the C.S. Mott Foundation; and one-third has been leveraged from the local foundations including the New Economy Initiative, The Skillman Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support program implementation.
Mott Foundation has matched the state funds to support subsidized
employment and asked that equal funds be leveraged from local private
foundations to support program activities.
More than 1,100
people have been referred to the program so far, but about half are not
passing the academic requirements and there is fallout after that due to
drug testing and eligibility, said Laurie Diener, senior manager for
Earn and Learn in Southeast Michigan.
"There aren't very many
programs for this population, and it's really targeted to those
disenfranchised from academic education and/or work," Diener said.
"This is a stepping stone for them so they can go on and learn a skill
To be eligible for the program, a person must be
between a sixth and 12th-grade learning level and undergo a drug test,
background check, physical and interview and meet other criteria. The
process usually takes a week, Diener said.
"The program fills a
niche because we accept people who don't have their GED; we accept
people who are chronically unemployed and-or formerly incarcerated," she
said. "I really hope that this helps folks really get on the first rung
of the career ladder so it restores their hope and confidence that they
can get back to work or get a job."
Sam Singh, senior
consultant at the New Economy Initiative, said the initiative has
invested $2 million in Earn and Learn and saw it as an opportunity to
leverage state and federal dollars to engage people who have been
unemployed and help them achieve further educational opportunities.
a model program that really helps people get back to work," he said.
"This is an opportunity for us to test this model and hope it will
continue to be invested in."
Van Camp said he hopes the
program's model can be validated and bring in more investment to broaden
it to more areas and expand on the number of people it helps.
not seen this coordinated approach before over a sustained amount of
time," he said "If Earn and Learn can be proven to succeed, it would
have significant implications for Detroit and urban communities across