Detroiters can fight blight for $15 an hour and get job training in new $75M program

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Elisha Hines-Jones, 65 of Detroit, was a part of the pilot Skills for Life program. She was out of work for five years care of her ailing mother and returned in 2020. She earned a commercial drivers license permit and drives trucks.

Detroiters can now apply to work for $15 an hour and get job training at the same time through a new city program.

Sponsor

The Skills for Life program, announced by the city Wednesday, is expected to temporarily employ 2,200 Detroiters who will also have the opportunity to participate in vocational training or earn a GED. The end goal is to help residents land permanent jobs.

The three-year program is funded by $75 million in federal pandemic recovery funds the city received over the summer, and is the second initiative to come out of the windfall of relief funds. The first was a home repair program.

“Because you live in the city of Detroit, the city is going to be there for you, for your education, for your skills, to put you in a situation where you can make a good living, buy a house, have a family, stay in our city,” Mayor Mike Duggan said Wednesday during a news conference at the Detroit Training Center.


How it works

Program participants will work three days a week with the city crews on blight remediation and grounds maintenance.

During two other days each week, they will participate in vocational training or study to complete a high school diploma or GED. The paid training may also include earning a commercial drivers license or learning how to operate heavy duty equipment. The program will pay $15 an hour.

The program lasts up to a year for individual participants, who will get help transitioning to longer term employment through the city’s Detroit at Work program.

“You’ve got the talent, we’ve got the opportunity and we’re going to help you put those two things together,” said Nicole Sherard-Freeman, the city’s group executive for jobs, economy and Detroit at Work.

‘The next level’

Elisha Hines-Jones, 65, of Detroit, was out of work for five years while she took care of her ailing mother. In 2020, she rejoined the workforce through a pilot Skills for Life program, working at the city’s COVID-19 testing facility at the State Fairgrounds.

“I had to make a decision to keep on working or take care of my family, she said. “And my decision was to take care of my family. So that took about five years and (my mother has) passed on and I promised her that I would go back to work and getting those five years back.”

Hines-Jones cleaned up alleys, then became a foreman and signed up to learn how to drive a truck. Even though she didn’t see herself driving an 18-wheeler, she embarked on the challenge and is working toward her commercial driver’s license.

“It’s free for you if you want to learn new skills and this skill can take you to the next level to a next job opportunity within the city,” Hines-Jones said.

Officials said they expect city improvements to come out of the program, including 7,000 cleaned-up commercial corridor properties, 5,000 trees trimmed, 1,500 properties painted and 100 parks tidied up.

The program will also offer help with transportation and child care, officials said.

“I’ve seen lots of successes and I’ve seen failures and some of the failures mostly come from not the person themselves, it’s the barriers … classes are expensive, it’s hard to get a GED, transportation is expensive,” said Brad Dick, group executive for the city’s services and infrastructure division.

How to apply

Go to detroitatwork.com and click the “Skills for Life” banner and then “Sign Up Now.” Once an application is completed, people will be contacted within 72 hours of beginning the enrollment process. For more information, call Detroit at Work at 313-962-9675.

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and Bridge Detroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA.

Contact Nushrat: nrahman@freepress.com; 313-348-7558. Follow her on Twitter: @NushratR. Sign up for Bridge Detroit’s newsletterBecome a Free Press subscriber. 

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