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Detroit Regional Workforce Fund creates careers for Detroiters

By Karen Tyler-Ruiz

The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund (DRWF) was created in 2010 to connect unemployed and underemployed individuals with skills training that will connect them to a career path leading to secure, well-paying jobs that meet the workforce needs of employers and the larger community.

The DRWF invests in demand-driven training initiatives and leads collaborative efforts with other organizations in a wide variety of industries. One of its outstanding initiatives is Access for All.

Access for All is for residents of the city of Detroit. It offers free, nine-week training with a curriculum designed to prepare students for pre-apprenticeship in the construction trades, such as bricklayer, carpenter, electrician or cement mason. The success of Access for All is due to the innovative partnership with the building and construction trades, labor unions, contractors, Michigan Resources Development, Inc. (HRDI), a training organization, and many other community-based partners and workforce development organizations, including the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund.

More than 80 percent of Access for All participants graduate from the program. Graduates gain certification and enter apprenticeship programs that lead to long-term careers. Best of all, at a time when Detroit is seeing significant growth in well-paying careers, Access for All puts it students on the path to securing and keeping one of those much-sought-after construction careers that offers family-sustaining wages.

As the term “career pathway” implies, the training and learning opportunities offered through Access for All lead not just to jobs, but to careers. Once someone steps onto the pathway to training in the construction trades, a whole new world of previously-unconsidered opportunities may open up.

For example, a person with a truck and a toolbox may have a passion for electrical work. With the right training and experience, that person becomes a pre-apprentice, an apprentice, then a journey-level worker and, eventually, a small business owner. That owner successfully has traveled one career pathway thanks to the initial pre-apprenticeship training. Another person, after training as an electrician, may decide he or she wants to go to college and get a degree in project engineering. After graduating, he or she enjoys a lifetime career as a project engineer. That person stepped onto and off of the career pathway in a different place than the small business owner. Or, perhaps, while training to become an electrician, a person develops an interest and expertise in community building projects that spur economic development, such as affordable housing, and makes that the focus of his or her work. These are but three instances of how one can step on and off the Access for All pathway in exploring a variety of exciting career opportunities.

Eligibility for the next Access for All class, which begins on April 17, requires that an applicant be at least 18-years-old and an unemployed or underemployed resident of the city of Detroit with a valid Michigan driver’s license.

To apply for the class starting on April 17, call 313.736.5290 or go to www.accessforalldetroit.com.

Access for All is funded by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund (DRWF). The DRWF is a public-private workforce funders’ collaborative and is housed at United Way for Southeastern Michigan, which is also one of its investors and serves as the fiscal agent.

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