Detroiters get lift on building careers in growing industries

 In News Article

Following the death of a loved one last year, Marquise Carter decided he wanted more for his life, including steady employment.

“It really impacted me to want to change my life for the better,” he said. “It made me think about my future more. I’ve got to take care of myself and get better.”

Interested in construction, Carter, 29, earned his GED late last year and enrolled in Service Employment Redevelopment Metro — Detroit’s skilled-trades education program.

SER Metro is among three Detroit-based nonprofit organizations awarded a total of $510,000 from Citi Foundation to help Detroiters like Carter prepare for careers in growing industries.

Citi Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation recently announced the funding, through LISC’s Bridges to Career Opportunities initiative, which helps unemployed and underemployed Detroiters.

The funding is part of a $10 million, three-year national effort by Citi Foundation and LISC to expand the initiative. More than 600 Detroiters are expected to benefit from the local funding.

The other local recipients are Focus: HOPE which offers robotics training for careers in automation, manufacturing and information technology, and Operation ABLE which is expanding its culinary arts training. Operation ABLE is also launching a program focused on entrepreneurship in the hospitality industry.

The three organizations were chosen during a competitive process, said Jacqueline Burau, senior program officer for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

“In Detroit, we’ve been funding these three groups since we started the (Bridges to Career Opportunities) work in 2015,” Burau said. “They had a good track record over the last three years of funding they received from LISC. Each of them brought kind of a new innovation to their successful program to make it even better.”

In addition to skills training, the funding will provide students personal-finance coaching and courses to improve math and reading skills. It also provides resources to help job seekers find transportation, child care and housing.

“Connecting someone to a job is not enough,” said Veronica Peavey, a senior assistant vice president for SER Metro. “All those wraparound supports are necessary to help the person and their family through our program and beyond. There’s a lot of focus on financial stability and making sure there’s job retention. We provide those services even beyond their time they’re with us. We follow up with them for at least three years.”

SER Metro has provided job training since 1971. It holds an eight-week training program for construction trades four times a year.

Carter is halfway through the program. He says the class has worked on math skills and received safety training. On Friday, he worked alongside about a dozen students on the framing of a single-family house they’re building in Westland through a partnership with the city.

Carter says he wants to focus on heating and cooling.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “It’s a little bit of electrical, a little bit of carpentry, a little bit of plumbing. It’s interesting.”

At Operation ABLE in Midtown Detroit, students participate in a 12-week culinary arts program including hands on experience in a commercial kitchen.

Nefertiti Frazier, 35, said the program helped her transition from fast food to fine dining. The Detroit mother of four now works as a chef at the Hannan House Café in Midtown.

“We didn’t just come here, get the skills and then it’s ‘OK, have a nice life,’” Frazier said. “They continue to help us in every way they can. Helping us with our resumes. They have job fairs here all the time. They have connections with different employers.”

With the help of Operation ABLE’s financial coach, Frazier is developing a plan for a catering business.

“This program has changed my life,” she said. “Ever since I came here my whole entire life changed. I’m so happy.”

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