Listening Session with Jill Biden and Gov. Whitmer Highlights Apprenticeships

Two Detroit Public Schools Community District graduates in the early stages of their career journeys were presented as shining lights July 17 during the “Build Back Better” listening session featuring Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The session came three days after Joe Biden outlined an updated climate plan, which would invest $2 trillion to boost clean energy and rebuild infrastructure.

During the online event Tom Ward, apprenticeship coordinator for Detroit Metropolitan Masonry Local 2, introduced the audience to Damari Covington-Woods and Charisma Carlisle, two successful apprentices that were recruited after completing programs at Randolph Career & Technical Center in 2019.

Throughout the listening session the importance of apprenticeship programs that lead to skilled-trades careers was highlighted, with the selling points being “job security, good wages, benefits and no debt,” in the words of Governor Whitmer, who serves as a national co-chair for Joe Biden’s presidential bid.

Joe Biden has identified skilled trades as a key component of his plan “to build a new American infrastructure and clean energy economy,” and his updated climate plan includes the creation of 1 million trades jobs focused on upgrading sustainable buildings and homes.

For Covington-Woods and Carlisle, who both had an opportunity to share their stories during the listening session, skilled-trades apprenticeships are a means to building a life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both expressed pride in being able to purchase their first cars after having to take three busses in the past to arrive at sites. Covington-Woods—a valedictorian and former standout football player at Southeastern High School—also talked about moving into his own home soon, while Carlisle wants to encourage more young women to pursue skilled-trades careers and looks forward to mentoring students at Randolph Career & Technical Center.

Jill Biden said the testimonials from the two Detroiters—both not yet 21 years old—represent Joe Biden’s vision for the entire state. “My husband wants union jobs with higher wages and better benefits for both young and older workers,” she said.

The sentiment of Jill Biden was shared by Gov. Whitmer, who also responded to a question from the Michigan Chronicle prior to the listening session regarding Joe Biden’s vision for African Americans in Detroit.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges that Black Americans were facing long before COVID-19,” Gov. Whitmer said. “Too many Black families were struggling to make ends meet and too many parents were worried about the economic future for their children. And, let’s be clear, Black Americans—like many others—have never been welcomed as full participants in the economy. Joe’s plan addresses this by creating a pathway to the middle class through good-paying, union jobs, supporting the growth of Black-owned small businesses, restoring America’s manufacturing careers and eliminating pollution in communities of color with an economy powered by 100 percent clean energy.“

By Scott Talley

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