Detroit Launches Skills for Life Work/Training Program

The city of Detroit Wednesday launched a new Skills for Life work/training program designed to pay up to 2,200 Detroiters to learn new job skills and remove educational barriers to employment while making physical improvements to Detroit’s neighborhoods.
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The city of Detroit has launched Skills for Life, a work/training program designed to pay Detroiters to learn new job skills and make physical improvements to Detroit’s neighborhoods. // Stock photo
The city of Detroit has launched Skills for Life, a work/training program designed to pay Detroiters to learn new job skills and make physical improvements to Detroit’s neighborhoods. // Stock photo

The city of Detroit Wednesday launched a new Skills for Life work/training program designed to pay up to 2,200 Detroiters to learn new job skills and remove educational barriers to employment while making physical improvements to Detroit’s neighborhoods.

The three-year initiative, which will invest up to $75 million to improve the economic mobility of Detroiters, is the first workforce program to be funded through the city’s allocation of 2021 American Rescue Plan Act funds.

In October, the city launched the $30 million Renew Detroit program, which is designed to help 1,500 Detroit seniors with critically needed home repairs, including roof replacements using ARPA funds. Similar to Renew Detroit, Skills for Life comes as a result of an extensive round of community engagement meetings to identify ARPA spending priorities and City Council approval.

Through Skills for Life, participating Detroiters will split their time between training and performing work to improve Detroit neighborhoods, such as cleaning up commercial corridors and blighted properties. The first 1,200 participants will work for the city’s General Services Department and the remaining 1,000 positions will be with other city departments with similar workforce needs.

Physical improvements targeted include 7,000 commercial corridor properties cleaned, 1,500 commercial corridor properties painted, 5,000 trees along commercial corridors trimmed, and 100 parks cleaned more frequently.

“Skills for Life builds on programs we already have in place and will be a major piece of our strategy to reduce intergenerational poverty in our city,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Not only will participants get paid a living wage to learn new skills, get practical on the job experience, and earn their GED or diploma, they will be contributing significantly to the beautification of our city.”

With those skills and qualifications under their belts, Detroit at Work will then help them to target long-term, well-paying career paths that give them access to the middle class, Duggan added.

A portion of the $75 million to be spent on Skills for Life will be used to purchase the equipment participants will need to do their work in neighborhoods, as well as for related expenses, such as disposal of debris removed from city neighborhoods.

“One of the things we hear most from residents is that we need to do more to address the cleanliness of our city, particularly our parks and commercial corridors,” says Brad Dick, group executive for services and infrastructure. “Skills for Life gives us the opportunity to hire, train, and pay Detroiters to do much of this work. Many of them will learn to operate the types of equipment that provides them good paying work and job opportunities for years to come.”

Program participants will work three days a week with the City of Detroit’s General Services Department, undertaking work focused on blight remediation, grounds maintenance and other city-beautification activities. The other two days a week, participants will participate in vocational training or studying to complete high school diplomas or GEDs, as appropriate.

“There is no industry more in-demand right now than skilled trades — both at a local and a national level,” Dick says. “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.”

Participants with concerns about childcare and transportation will be assisted.

To apply for the program, visit here and click the Skills for Life banner.

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