Detroit and Southeast Michigan's premier business news and information website
Advanced Search: Detroit Business
Topics in this article: Education Training Workforce Nonprofits
October 30, 2011 8:00 PM

New training initiative targets at-risk youth, chronically jobless

By Ellen Mitchell
| | | | | |
Diener

A statewide initiative could provide long-term employment for more than 1,000 chronically unemployed and formerly jailed metro Detroit residents.

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.

"There 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.

The program 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.

Southwest Solutions 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.

The 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 or trade."

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.

"It's 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.

"We've 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 the country."


| | | | | |


Subscribe to Crain's Detroit Business
If you enjoy the content on the Crain's Detroit Business Web site and want to see more, try 8 issues of our print edition risk-free. If you wish to continue, you will receive 44 more issues (for a total of 52 in all), including the annual Book of Lists for just $59. That's over 55% off the cover price. If you decide Crain's is not for you, just write "Cancel" on the invoice, return it and owe nothing. The 8 issues are yours to keep with no further obligation to us. Sign up below.

Name:

E-mail:

Company:

Address:

City:  State:

Zip/Postal Code:  Country:

Offer valid for new MI subscribers only. Non-MI subscribers - $79. All other Foreign - $127.
Home

This Week's Issue
News
Get More
Lists/Resources

Events

Use of editorial content without permission is strictly prohibited. All rights Reserved
Privacy Statement | Disclaimer