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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 or contact Melanie D’Evelyn at


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