New Initiative Will Help Close the Gap Between Skills Workers Have and Skills Employers Need

Jan 20, 2011, 10:00 ET from Detroit Regional Workforce Fund

DETROIT, Jan. 20, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Detroit and Southeast Michigan Fund for Innovative Workforce Solutions has been launched to address the growing gap between the skills workers in Michigan currently have and those they will need to fill the thousands of middle-skill jobs that studies are predicting will exist as our state emerges from its current economic recession.

By connecting low-skilled, low-income workers to career pathways that lead to these middle-skill jobs, which require some postsecondary training beyond high school and will pay family sustaining wages, the Detroit and Southeast Michigan Fund for Innovation Workforce Solutions (Detroit Regional Workforce Fund), will directly contribute to the economic recovery and long-term prosperity of the region.

"The need for skilled workers and job advancement opportunities has outstripped the capacity of southeast Michigan's existing public workforce system," said Wendy L. Jackson, Steering Committee Chair of the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund and senior program officer for the Kresge Foundation – a founding partner of the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund. "I'm encouraged that this collaborative will not only bring partners together in unprecedented ways to effect real change in the region's strategic workforce vision, but will also align public and private resources in creative new ways to move Detroiters into jobs."

Key to the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund approach is its investment in industry-led workforce partnerships that create long-term relationships between employers and educational providers to help improve the workforce development system and create training programs that meet the needs of workers and employers alike.

Through these innovative partnerships, the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund is bringing together employers in the same industry to identify common talent needs and entities such as community colleges and training providers that can develop and implement sector-based workforce training initiatives.  

These partnerships ensure that low-skilled, low-income workers will have access to long-term, sustainable careers that will, in turn, help drive economic stability in southeast Michigan.

The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund's current partnership focus is on creating career pathways in the health and green economy sectors – both of which have been projected to be growth sectors in the recovering economy.

One of the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund's initial partnership investments is a $640,000 training grant to Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice which is working with several employers doing environmental cleanup work to train 105 individuals in skills needed to perform hazardous waste remediation.

"The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund brings together many different stakeholders to work collaboratively on solutions for shared challenges in workforce development," said Sandra Yu, program manager at Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. "While we focus on policy advocacy, community organizing, and coalition building, being part of The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund's roundtable keeps us looped into the broader workforce development system with other key stakeholders, and engaged in policy issues that are important to successful job training and placement."

DRWF has also invested approximately $100,000 in the emerging green sector of residential energy retrofits and efficiency.

Ten national and local, public and private funders have committed $3.5 million to the three-year collaborative, which promotes regional economic growth through the development of a skilled workforce. In addition to the Knight Foundation, which initiated the collaboration, funders include Kresge Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, U.S. Department of Labor, Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth (DELEG), United Way for Southeastern Michigan (which is also the Fund's fiduciary body and administrative home), Skillman Foundation, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

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SOURCE Detroit Regional Workforce Fund