Detroit at Work: Workforce Development in the City

Detroit at Work: Workforce Development in the City

Detroit’s Need

Rebel Nell was born out of recognizing generational poverty plagues so many Detroiters - 37% to be exact (to put that in perspective - that’s 3x the national average!), and only half of those residents in Detroit are in the labor force. It’s our belief that businesses have a responsibility to make a positive impact in their community - and core part of the solution is to provide employment opportunities for those who have gotten left behind. Lately you’ve heard Detroit’s going through a ‘workforce shortage’ - not enough qualified workers for company positions. There’s 200,000 Detroiters who lack the skills needed to obtain these positions and 150,000 to fill ( Do you see the disconnect? There has to be a better way to train and connect this group of people with the jobs available. 

Our Goals

Detroit has launched a city-wide initiative to fund a variety of workforce training programs. Things like IT bootcamps, trade schools, CNA certifications and even transitional employment like that offered by Rebel Nell. While all of our programs may be different, we all have the same common goals in mind when implementing our work - fostering a stronger, more communal, empowering Detroit. The workforce development programs in Detroit:

  • Focus on foundational skill development to improve long-term employment opportunities for residents.
  • Connect employers to workforce solutions creating a mutually beneficial partnership for both parties.
  • Create talent pipelines of the real-world skills needed to be successful in today’s jobs.

The workforce development programs offered in Detroit vary from program length, industry-focus, employment partners, and model - meaning there’s something for everyone! This diversity of programs allows for you to discover what works best for you, and your situation. When it comes to uplifting a workforce - there is not  a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Below are some of the new models these programs incorporate:

Integrated Education and Training Programs - Foundational skill building programs are combined with occupational training and credentialing tied to employment. Think 50% in the job field and 50% in the classroom. Zaman International does a phenomenal job at this with their B.O.O.S.T. Vocational and Literacy Training Program for women. During the program, women study for their GED, get their driver’s license and then learn basic English Literacy skills with instruction in sewing.

Career Pathway Bridge Programs - On-ramp foundational skills programs that connect to progressive levels of education, training, and employment to build careers and economic success over time. These programs usually include longer schooling, but have greater opportunities to grow in the same field for years. For a good example of this, you can look to EDSI’s Courses to Career Program. C2C identifies, trains and places recent college graduates who are unemployed or underemployed into part-time or full-time internships with the pathway to become a permanent position. The Bridges to Career Opportunities Program at SER Metro is a free eight week Apprenticeship Readiness Training Program Licensed by the State of Michigan - another great option.

Accelerated Diploma and Equivalency Programs - In-person, online, and hybrid program models connected to occupational training and jobs, resulting in individuals obtaining a diploma or employer-recognized credentials. Think about the Mercy Education Project who both serve women and girls pursuing their High School Completion of GED. 90% of women who go through their GED program pass the GED exam.

Employment-Based Programs - Foundational skill building programs that include stipended or wage employment during the course of the program. Rebel Nell classifies as this kind of program, as well as our friends at Southwest Solutions with their Earn + Learn Program.

Are you interested in one of these free training options to start changing the direction of your life? Visit one of Detroit at Work’s Career Centers during the week to speak with a career advisor about a training option that fits you!


Thanks to all the collaboration across the city working to create a better future for all Detroiters. Learn more about the work that’s happening with the links below.

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