Detroit Regional Chamber Receives $765K Grant to Expand Strategy to Fill Talent Gap From Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation

DETROIT, Oct. 17, 2019 – The Detroit Regional Chamber announced an expanded strategy to help fill the talent pipeline for employers and a grant of $765,000 from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation to fund this work for the next 24 months. The Chamber’s effort is targeting the region’s population who have some college experience but haven’t earned a postsecondary degree or credential. The work removes barriers for these individuals to pursue their degree or credential and offers a pathway to a sustainable career.

With a portion of the funding, the Chamber is in the process of hiring two positions – one will focus on program and employers’ partnerships and the other will focus directly on adult college completion efforts.

The expanded strategy will contribute to increasing postsecondary degree attainment in Michigan to 60% by 2030, a goal established by the Chamber in 2016 and was adopted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this year. There are nearly 700,000 people in the Detroit region that qualify as “adult learners” – the population aged 25 years or older with varying levels of prior college experience. In addition to growing the number of qualified workers for employers, the Chamber’s work will also help increase the per capita income for these individuals and contribute to cutting the region’s equity gap in half.

“Over the past year, the Chamber’s strategies to fill the talent gap have gained national attention. The grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation will build upon that work by targeting Detroiters who are unemployed or underemployed and connect them with a pathway to earn a sustainable living wage by aligning their skills with the needs of regional businesses,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Chamber.

The Chamber is now poised to:

  1. Help employers establish an environment to upskill existing employees
  2. Work with regional community colleges to align programs with business needs and become more adult-friendly
  3. Reach adults from the past 15 years who “stopped out” before earning a degree and help them restart their education
  4. Help adult learners navigate their return to education by connecting them with support services to ensure their success

“With this funding, the Chamber seeks to activate employers and supports community colleges to assist adults in obtaining additional postsecondary training and new skills that prepare them for the in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow in Southeast Michigan.  These goals are closely aligned with the Foundation’s priorities in the Young Adults and Working Families focus area, and we are proud to support the Chamber in leading this collaborative regional effort,” said Lavea Brachman, vice president of programs for Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

The Chamber is targeting adults and engaging businesses in the following counties – Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne. To execute the full strategy, the Chamber estimates this work will require an additional $1.5 million in funding.

The body of work funded by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is the result of the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees regional collective impact effort which engages stakeholders from business, government, and education who share the goal to increase regional degree attainment. The work concepts were developed by reviewing national best practices and with critical input from this group. The Detroit Drives Degrees partners will continue to engage in the execution of the work and contribute to its success.

To learn more visit www.detroitchamber.com/D3 or contact Melanie D’Evelyn at mdevelyn@detroitchamber.com.

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About Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. As the voice for business in the 11-county Southeast Michigan region, the Chamber’s mission is carried out through creating a business-friendly climate and value for members, leading a robust economic development strategy, and convening Michigan’s most influential audience at the nationally unique Mackinac Policy Conference.

About Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr. Wilson requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a life-long generosity of spirit by funding the Foundation that bears his name. The Foundation has a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Mr. Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information visit www.rcwjrf.org.

Foundations help set agenda at Mackinac Policy Conference

April 14, 2019

Crain’s Detroit Business

Sherri Welch

[…]

At this year’s conference set for May 28-31, foundations are hosting — that is, sponsoring and presenting — six of nine sessions on the agenda.

That’s up from five the past two years, four in 2014, two in 2013 and just one in 2012: by the Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Even more foundations (and others) would come in, if there were space on the agenda and at the Grand Hotel, chamber COO Tammy Carnrike said.

Kellogg is returning to this year’s conference along with Kresge Foundation, Skillman Foundation, C.S. Mott Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the William Davidson Foundation, a newcomer to the hosted sessions in 2019.

Like other sessions at the conference, the foundation-hosted events align with the conference pillars.

This year’s conference theme, “One Michigan,” will focus on the pillars “prepare, grow and love.”

More specifically, sessions will focus on education and talent development/retention, entrepreneurial and economic development and stewardship and sustainability of the resources, industries and other assets Michigan currently has.

Foundations use the sessions as a forum to release new studies and research, explore topics of regional and statewide importance and leverage their connections to feature national speakers on important topics, Carnrike said, sponsoring programs that wouldn’t otherwise happen.

“They have the ability to see where there are other experts they can bring in from other areas of the country (and) where other regions are doing well and bring those experts in to share their experience and their best practice.”

The foundation hosts contribute to valuable conversation, attracting standing-room only crowds to their sessions due to strong content and speakers, Carnrike said.

Given that, the chamber has invited them to help plan the conference and to take part in mainstage programs, Carnrike said.

For example, Skillman President and CEO Tonya Allen will participate in a panel discussion on boosting education excellence in Michigan.

Government is at the conference to speak out from a policy standpoint and business to speak on economic issues, Carnrike said.

“To have the philanthropic community … be there to say, ‘We are also part of the solution, here’s the work we do and resources we’re bringing to it’ … really helps solidify what gets discussed in their sessions.”

Foundations and other hosts are still finalizing topics for their sessions, but three have working themes, said Kelly Weatherwax, director of communications for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Those are:

  • C.S. Mott Foundation will focus on transforming municipal funding.
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation will focus on the 2020 Census.
  • William Davidson Foundation’s session will focus on the Detroit region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

View the full article here.

Philanthropic Leaders: Greater Impact on Detroit’s Revitalization Dependent on Business Partnerships

Watch the full panel here. 

The philanthropic community’s contributions – from housing sustainability programs to youth education – was a critical step in Detroit’s post-bankruptcy revitalization. In the discussion, “Detroit’s Resurgence: Philanthropy’s Leading Role,” panelists highlighted how their respective organizations stimulated development throughout the city through projects, initiatives and programs while emphasizing the need for more collaboration with businesses.

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“The foundation community, as well as the corporate community is slowly growing in the understanding that if we work together more, there are great things we can accomplish,” explained Faye Nelson, vice president of DTE Energy and board chair and president of DTE Energy Foundation.

Key takeaways include:

  • The community has needs that the public sector and government cannot address. Individually, philanthropic organizations cannot fill this void.
  • As paradigms shift in Detroit post-bankruptcy, foundations and philanthropic organizations have stepped in to invest in projects that the state and federal government historically funded.
  • Moving forward, for foundations and business it is no longer about investing in as many projects as possible, as much as it is about funding projects that best serve the community.

This session was moderated by Nolan Finley, editorial page editor for The Detroit News. Panelists also included: David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation; Katy Locker, Detroit program director at the Knight Foundation; and Chris Uhl, vice president of community investments for Rock Ventures. The session was sponsored by DTE Energy Foundation.

Read more from the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference:

Food Experts: Maintaining Detroit’s Momentum Begins with Healthy, Sustainable Meals for Communities