Perceptions of a disconnect between the skill and experience needs of regional employers and the skills and experience of those seeking employment have long been a topic of discussion among Detroit area business leaders. While this disconnect is often raised as a national issue, resulting from technological disruptions and the changing nature of work, Detroit faces particular challenges. The region’s relatively low levels of post-secondary education have not kept pace with the innovations made in their key sectors, including automotive. These challenges are most acute for Detroit area residents with barriers to training and employment.
In 2019, the Detroit Regional CEO Group (CEO Group) engaged TIP to examine how industry-led workforce partnerships can play a role in increasing opportunities for Detroit area residents while filling critical jobs for the region’s largest employers. The group also saw this work as an opportunity to “connect the dots” between employers and major state and local-level education initiatives, including Governor Whitmer’s goal to increase the number of working-age Michiganders with a postsecondary credential to 60 percent. The consulting team compiled background on industry-led workforce partnerships, including their value to employers and workforce system partners, and identified national best practices. Based on findings from this research, observations of the regional workforce system, and discussions among the CEO Group, the automotive industry was identified as a potential sector in which to develop a pilot program. General Motors, Ford, Lear, and others volunteered to participate as employers, with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation providing guidance and financial support. Subsequently, TIP worked with the CEO Group to implement a pilot based on guidance from the “roadmap” that was produced from this work.