Duggan said the program will help create a pipeline for careers such as welding, which Detroit companies have had a hard time filling. Time will tell how much of a dent these kinds of programs could make into the Motor City’s unemployment rate that last registered in January at 9.9 percent, according to the federal labor bureau.
“I’m not having trouble getting businesses to come [to Detroit],” Duggan said. “We have 5,000 vacant jobs in Detroit and we need to get Detroiters to fill those.”
The investment is the first major contribution to the project, a partnership between DPSCD, Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., the city and Duggan’s Workforce Development Board. Other partners in the effort to revitalize the school include DTE Energy Co., Penske Corp., General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., with more to join as the effort gets under way, according to a news release.
The city is leading fundraising efforts to reach its $9 million goal. Duggan said he will let the investors, which include philanthropic organizations, announce their funding commitments when they are ready.
Quicken Loans Vice Chairman Bill Emerson called the move a “significant investment for us,” projecting that more customer service-related jobs will be in supply.
“We’re so focused on customer service-related jobs whereas, in hospitality, bars and restaurants are coming online, there’s a need for that,” he said. “The development that is happening downtown, the type of jobs that will be the entry point for Detroiters into the workforce, it’s all a part of what’s happening.”
Kelli Coleman, co-founder of The Ten Nail Bar LLC, which opened a nail salon last year in Detroit’s Capitol Park, said the salon has its own expansion plan in the works. She said it employs about 20 people and could hire 10 more manicurists. However, the parlor has felt the pinch in its efforts to hire qualified workers.
“Our most difficult hurdle to overcome has been securing licensed talent,” Coleman said. “So this [program] means a great deal as it relates to offering sustainable employment opportunities and for us to meet a lot of demand that exists in the area.”
The Breithaupt blueprint includes improving the school’s infrastructure to handle training in culinary arts, retail, hospitality, cosmetology, automotive and mechatronics fields, among others. Construction is expected to begin this summer when the school year ends June 25 and completed in time for fall classes to begin.
Duggan said some of the added features will include an upgraded kitchen for the culinary arts program and new cars for the auto mechanics and collision program.
Jason Headen, Quicken Loans’ director of state and local government affairs, is project manager for the building makeover. He said Bedrock’s in-house design team is handling the architecture work and a contractor will be solidified soon.
Headen is a poster child for homegrown talent that this kind of program wants to see more of.
“I’m a Randolph grad, DPS grad and a Wayne State grad,” he said. “I have a lot of background and history and love in this field. I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned and the opportunities that I gained with the chance to work on this.”
Breithaupt serves about 450 youth students. With the expansion, officials expect that number to grow to 650 youths this fall and reach a total of 2,000 youths and adult students when it reaches full capacity in three years.
Vitti said the training program can develop talent in Detroit and create pathways to careers including cosmetology and automotive that require highly-skilled training.
“In the city of Detroit, we don’t have a talent gap, we have an opportunity gap,” the superintendent said. “They need to be connected to opportunity.”
Vitti said the goal of this public-private partnership is to change the perspective about what the district can do to improve education. Detroit schools have suffered a teacher shortage, which the superintendent said is down from 275 to 190 job vacancies, and it will certainly need to hire more over time to teach an additional 1,500 students at Breithaupt.
While Vitti did not say how many more teachers would be added at Breithaupt, he teased that his team has a plan to address vacancies across the district.
“At the beginning of next month, we will announce for the first time the opportunity to recognize experience outside of Detroit, which I think will really accelerate our recruiting efforts,” he said. “I think we’re going to be in a good position to be fully staffed. The demand is there, we just have to change our system in order to meet that demand.”
At Breithaupt in particular, Vitti said, officials are thinking “outside the box” with the business community to increase teacher pay and “bring industry-based teachers into the fold to give our students that real-world experience in the classroom.”