Detroit @ Work

“Nicole Sherard-Freeman”

It has often been said that when Detroit does well Michigan does well. Over the past few years Detroit has been working overtime to become a city where people want to live, work and play. With the influx of new businesses, housing developments and restaurants the city is close to achieving that goal.

Jobs and businesses are key to the city’s continued recovery; in fact, data show that the city’s workforce development agency helped over 10,000 residents obtain a job over the last two years. Business and job growth in the city is on the rise. However, there is still work to be done as it relates to Detroiters becoming gainfully employed.

Last year during his sixth State of the City address, Mayor Mike Duggan spoke at length about expanding career pathways, training and creating more jobs for Detroiters.

“We want to be a city that’s committed to creating job opportunities for everyone,” Duggan told the audience. “While that sounds like a slogan, we have to rethink everything we’ve done. … With the historic levels of businesses coming in, those who stayed need the benefits. … I want to make sure the people who have been here get the first shot.”

The Mayor and his team have been diligently working to overhaul the employment and training system that has long been in place by creating the Mayor’s Workforce Development Board. According to the Detroit workforce website, The Mayor’s Workforce Development Board was created to focus specifically on providing training and opportunities in targeted industries to ensure residents are ready and able to connect with jobs. To accomplish this, the Board is providing career pathways and entry points for Detroiters of all skills levels within five high-growth, high-demand industries.

One key initiative making great strides in community outreach, work readiness, employment and training is Detroit at Work. Created in February 2017 at the Mayor’s direction to provide one entry point into the workforce system that connects jobseekers with employers. Detroit at Work is an initiative under the leadership of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development and Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation (DESC). Detroit at Work provides information on in-demand career pathways and training programs that are aligned to jobs in growing career sectors from health care, information technology, manufacturing and logistics, construction, and retail, hospitality and entertainment, among others.

These days you cannot discuss employment rates in the city of Detroit without talking about the dreaded “talent gap”. For many Detroit job seekers, the opportunities that come along with the city’s economic growth are still out of reach. But calling it a talent gap may be a bit of a misnomer.

“I don’t believe there’s a talent gap. What we see is a skills gap”, said Nicole Sherard-Freeman Executive Director, Workforce Development for the City of Detroit. “There’s no question the talent is here but Detroiters may not have the training or certifications a job requires. Our job is to help Detroiters expand the skills they have, and develop the new skills employers need.”

A skills gap refers to the difference between the skills required for a job and the skills an employee actually possesses. Detroit at Work partners with employers to find what they are looking for and they take that knowledge and work with their partners to help Detroiters gain the skills needed to get the job.

When Fiat Chrysler Automobile announced its $2.5 billion Jeep plant expansion on city’s east side it was also stated that FCA would have to interview all Detroit candidates before they interview anybody from the suburbs. Detroit at Work held over 400 Job Readiness events and screened over 12,500 Detroiters for the positions. If you wanted priority application access then you had to go through Detroit at Work. Detroit at Work also provided basic math and literacy tutoring for applicants that need to brush up on their skills.

But suppose you don’t want to work at FCA, or Dakkota Integrated Systems, or other auto manufacturing suppliers, there’s thousands of other jobs available at

Under the oversight of the Mayor’s Workforce Development Board, the Detroit at Work team, led by the Mayor’s office, was able to revamp the old workforce development model. The Detroit at Work Career Centers had to get rid of the things that weren’t working at the One Stops.

First there was an increase in the service access points. In 2018, there were only three Detroit at Work Career Centers.Presently, there are eight careers centers located around the city. They are all within the neighborhoods thereby making them more accessible to Detroiters. For years, if you wanted employment development services you had your choice of 3 centers: Fort St. Milwaukee and Michigan Ave.

“I am really glad that the city chose to place the career centers in the neighborhoods. I Why make it harder for unemployed people to access job development services?”, says Lavedra Forest. “I used to have to go all the way down to Fort Street which took me over an hour on the bus. Now I can go to the career center on 7 mile. It’s close to my house and within walking distance. I find myself going there more frequently because it’s literally right there.”

And that’s not all that has changed.

Detroit at Work career centers have adopted a human-centered approach to providing employment services. From the way you are greeted when you walk in to how they are having the conversation about personal skill sets and employment goals. It’s designed to put the person at the center of the work instead of trying to fit a person into processes that may not work, so the approach is much more individualized.

Another service that the career centers offer is financial literacy training. Research has shown that any path to self-sufficiency must include a budget and financial management training. Other services offered at the career centers include transportation assistance, job training and a variety of workshops and classes. Whether you need help with your resume, interviewing skills, computer literacy, or online job applications, the Detroit at work career centers have workshops available to help you build your skillset.

Closing the skills gap is essential to creating real job opportunities for Detroit residents. It is also essential that the city build relationships with employers and work to get Detroiters positioned for the available opportunities.

Detroit at Work is making job and opportunities available to Detroiters in the neighborhoods.


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