Companies that are Revolutionizing Skills Training in Detroit

Posted by Penn Foster on March 4, 2019

Detroit is a resilient city in the process of rebuilding a robust economic future. The path to great progress is only temporarily gated by the challenge that many workers face when seeking out the skills and education they need to thrive. Fortunately, some visionary companies have partnered with Penn Foster to create a path for these workers.

In 2013, battered by changes in manufacturing and a shift in the global economy, Detroit declared bankruptcy. That could have been the end of the story for the once-dynamic city, but Detroit is resilient. Passionate business, government, and community leaders immediately set to work to restore Detroit's former greatness. Within 13 months, Detroit was out of bankruptcy and on the road to recovery.

While challenges still remain, Detroit felt strong enough to make a bid for the new headquarters Amazon was planning to build last year. When Detroit didn't make the short list of 20 finalists, Amazon told Detroit leaders exactly why: The tech giant didn't feel that Detroit had a robust enough talent pool.

That's an objection that Ron Stefanski, Managing Director for Corporate Education at Penn Foster, is working to overcome. As a resident of Detroit, the revitalization of the city is a cause close to Stefanski's heart.

"By creating seamless opportunity for people to acquire the skills and training they need, we can address workforce challenges," Stefanski said.

It will take collaboration to prepare the workforce for middle skills jobs, jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor's degree. Addressing this element of the talent issue will help Detroit return to its former place as an industry and economic leader.

"I think it's an exciting time in Detroit to be part of this conversation," Stefanski said. "So much rests on the success of getting this right. Forward thinking employers are really looking differently at their talent strategies as the labor pool tightens."

Employers like the Ford Motor Company, who worked closely with the United Automobile Workers and Penn Foster to create a pre-apprenticeship program for UAW members. Workers can upskill at their own pace using Penn Foster's on-demand learning system.

Upon completion, workers see real economic benefits in the form of wages and career progression. UAW Ford alone has enrolled more than 5,000 pre-apprentices. Workers who complete the program are immediately qualified for higher pay and more responsible positions.

Another industry leader based out of Detroit has also partnered with Penn Foster. Through a custom diesel mechanic training program, Penske has trained more than 1,600 diesel mechanics. It was one of seven companies to invest $5 million toward revitalizing Detroit neighborhoods to training and maintaining a skilled workforce, Penske has taken a keen interest in the rebuilding of Detroit. With the credential Penske employees earn from Penn Foster, more than 60% receive a promotion and 50% stay with the company long term.

Detroit companies are even helping Penn Foster upskill its own employees. Penn Foster uses Skillo, a state of the art training delivery system in the Quicken family, to deliver training to its network of academic and success coaches. By accessing training and by communicating with each other on the platform, Penn Foster academic and success coaches build stronger skills to serve students more effectively in Detroit and beyond.

"The key to maintaining economic growth and development and the key to making that inclusive of all Detroiters is ensuring access to high quality educational experiences for front-line workers, opportunity youth and those underserved," Stefanski said.

Toward that end, the Detroit Job Corps has partnered with Penn Foster to deliver a high school program. Participants earn their high school diploma using a mobile-friendly, flexible online system.

Other organizations are also contributing to progress. Penn Foster is communicating closely with the Detroit Regional Chamber and with Automation Alley, an organization committed to building career pathways and upskilling efforts that lead people to meaningful work and careers. Together these organizations aim to prepare workers for Industry 4.0, the emerging technology sectors that are demanding new and different skills from workers at all levels.

Penn Foster is hosting an event to bring together these organizations and others invested in addressing the middle-skills workforce challenge in Detroit. Skills Forward: Detroit will be held on March 7 at the historic and newly renovated Detroit Club.

The panel of community leaders will include: LinkedIn Policy Analyst Erin Moore, Vice VP of Education for Detroit Regional Chamber Greg Handel, and COO of Automation Alley Pavan Muzumdar. They will trade ideas for how business and public sector partners can unite to create a robust system for upskilling Detroit's workforce and making Detroit a destination for middle-skills talent.

Members of the business community, public sector stakeholders, and anyone who is interested in upskilling the Detroit middle-skills talent pool is invited to attend.