Letters: Other Views on Educational Achievement

March 11, 2019

The Detroit News

Greg Handel, Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson


Detroit Chamber helps students succeed

In a recent column (“Before free college, fix the schools,” Feb. 14) Ingrid Jacques examined the governor’s proposal for the creation of a statewide, tuition-free community college program citing examples from the Detroit Promise. As the administrator of the program, the Detroit Regional Chamber understands that providing access to tuition-free college is only one part of a broader strategy to ensure that individuals have a pathway to a successful career and employers have access to the talent they need.

Jacques rightly raises the issue that there is relatively low completion among community college students. This is a national issue, not just a Michigan issue. Completion rates are a significant challenge for many reasons, including academic challenges and job opportunities in a low unemployment environment.

In 2016, the Detroit Promise adopted a more comprehensive approach and implemented a best practice model that increases student retention from their first year to their second year. This model, known as “intensive coaching” helps students overcome barriers to education from the minute they get on campus.

This program places coaches on community college campuses to provide ongoing support, encouragement, and connections to more intensive resources. This is particularly beneficial to students who are the first in their family to go to college.

To increase the number of students enrolling in college and participating in the Detroit Promise, the chamber also added access to a four-year university track. With both additions, the total current enrollment has grown to more than 1,400 students. While there is still room for growth, those students would be less likely to continue their education.

In our region in particular, there is tremendous need – and opportunity – in the skilled trades. Acknowledging this, Mayor Mike Duggan, the chamber’s partner in the Detroit Promise and its chief champion, announced at his State of the City address a new partnership for the Detroit Promise with select community colleges to cover shorter-term skilled certification tracks. Depending on the track chosen, students could join the workforce following as little as six to 12 months of coursework.

Through a partnership with the mayor’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT), scholarship students are provided opportunities to work in summer career pathway internships to build career readiness skills in various fields, from accounting to junior police or fire cadets.

While we need to be aware of the challenges with scaling up tuition-free community college, those concerns must be balanced with the need to drastically increase Michigan’s level of postsecondary attainment.

The chamber is proud of the holistic methods we are taking to increase pathways to college and careers, and we know that others around the country, such as Tennessee, are finding success as well.

Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent initiatives

Detroit Regional Chamber

School goes better with breakfast

Teachers, tutors, resource centers and even homework are all geared to helping students learn. One thing that often goes missing, however, is more basic than any piece of curriculum – breakfast.

Studies have repeatedly shown that a student who goes to school hungry is at an immediate disadvantage because it is difficult for him or her to concentrate and learn when their basic needs are not being met.

Oakland County is Better with Breakfast is a groundbreaking public/non-profit collaboration between the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, Oakland Schools and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan with the goal of expanding free breakfast to students in eligible schools across Oakland County. Our model for addressing the underutilization of federal school breakfast funding is unique to both the state and the country.

The Better with Breakfast program was developed to improve academic outcomes by starting with something as simple, yet fundamental, as breakfast. Did you know only 43 percent of Oakland County students who receive a free or reduced lunch are also accessing breakfast? That means as many as 7,300 students in Oakland County alone struggle with hunger.

Oakland Schools is proud to partner with Oakland County leadership and United Way for Southeastern Michigan, to promote and support this important initiative.

School breakfast fights hunger, improves nutrition, and empowers children to learn.

By providing students with easier access to breakfast, we are eliminating a huge barrier to student achievement.

Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, superintendent

Oakland Schools

View original article here

Businesses Sought to Provide Jobs for Boys and Young Men of Color at Career Summit

By Daniel Lai

Building on its effort to grow the region’s economy and connect young people with jobs and sustainable career pathways, the Detroit Regional Chamber, together with My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and Mayor Mike Duggan, are recruiting regional businesses to pledge employment opportunities and/or career training for boys and young men of color.

The goal is to sign up business partners who are committed to provide 250 jobs for hire on-site during the Pathways to Success Career Summit on Nov. 14 at Cobo Center.

“This program is about creating real opportunity, which is something we really haven’t done enough of,” Duggan said during a recruitment meeting with local, state and national companies at city hall last week.

In addition, the Summit brings together HR representatives and career coaches to provide everything from resume writing workshops and interview prep to free haircuts and tips on how to properly tie a necktie.

“In the era that we’re living in now, the importance of business being involved in the solutions for these young people is critical,” said Blair Taylor, CEO of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. “Providing jobs gets someone into a position of economic viability — managing money and responsibility — but also turns these young people into positive role models for others to follow.”

Taylor said there are 5.5 million young people ages 18-24 across the United States that are currently not working and not attending school.

“That is the biggest issue of our time. You can’t take 5.5 million people out of this economy and thrive,” he said.

Tammy Carnrike, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s chief operating officer, said partnering with the Mayor and My Brother’s Keeper is a natural extension of the Chamber’s effort to grow opportunity in the region and infuse the talent pipeline with a qualified workforce.

“We have employers looking to hire. Matching talent to employer needs is what is going to help us continue the momentum in Detroit and Michigan,” she said.

Pointing to the success of Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT), a summer employment initiative led by Duggan that helped provide jobs to 8,000 young people this past summer, Carnrike said the business community in the Detroit region is hungry for talent.

Samantha Green, human resources manager for Applebees, said the company participated in GDYT and ended up hiring five employees at the end of the summer. Green said the experience was very positive and Applebees is looking forward to hiring more young people at the Pathways to Success Career Summit.

“We’re very excited to get involved. Our restaurant managers had nothing but positive things to say about our previous hires through these employment opportunities,” she said.

For more information on signing up for the Pathways to Success Career Summit, contact Robert Troutman, director of education and talent programs, at rtroutma@detroitchamber.com or 313.596.0478.

February 3: Chamber Hosts Kick Off of Mayor’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent Program to Rally Employers to Connect Youth with Jobs

Chamber Hosts Kick Off of Mayor’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent Program to Rally Employers to Connect Youth with Jobs

The Detroit Regional Chamber hosted a kick-off breakfast for Mayor Mike Duggan’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT) program on Jan. 27. The program connects Detroit youths with summer jobs through participating businesses and creates sustainable career pathways. Speakers at the event included Tonya Allen, CEO of The Skillman Foundation; former Mayor Dave Bing; Mayor Duggan; and Ed Egnatios, program director for neighborhoods at The Skillman Foundation.

Duggan said the goal of the program is to unite existing job programs across the city and to better prepare students for professional careers and put them on a path toward success. In its first year, the Mayor challenged employers to hire 5,000 Detroit residents ages 14-24 between June and August.

The Chamber is co-chairing the program and has pledged to match 500 students with jobs. Eligible students are recruited through Detroit schools, community organizations and the initiative’s program partners, including The Skillman Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The program pairs candidates with employers based on interest and ability.

The GDYT program was first announced at last year’s Mackinac Policy Conference, and support for the program is a Conference To-Do List item. For more information, or to sign up as a participating business, email youthjobs@cityconnectdetroit.org.

Business Attraction, MICHauto Testify on Priorities at Commerce Committee Hearing in Lansing

Detroit Regional Chamber executives testified in front of the Michigan House Commerce Committee last week to provide newly sworn in members of the Legislature an overview of the Chamber’s economic development programs. The testimony comes as the Chamber’s advocacy team continues to partner with lawmakers in support of the bipartisan pro-growth policy needed to create the best possible economic climate in Michigan.

Maureen Krauss, vice president of economic development, highlighted the Chamber’s role as the voice for business attraction in the Detroit region, noting that Detroit is a more recognized brand internationally than Michigan. Glenn Stevens, vice president of MICHauto and strategic development, showcased Michigan’s continued role as the global epicenter of the auto industry and MICHauto’s role in preserving, protecting and growing the industry across the state. Brad Williams, vice president of government relations, also highlighted the emerging positive relationship between the city of Detroit and leaders in Lansing leading to the passage of the Grand Bargain last spring.

Cindy Pasky at Inside the CEO Mind: Business Growth Requires Strong Leaders, Innovation

Learning how to anticipate and adapt to changing customer needs is a key component for business success. That’s the message that Cindy Pasky, CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3) and former Detroit Regional Chamber Board chairwoman, conveyed to nearly 60 attendees at the Chamber’s Inside the CEO Mind series at the Detroit Athletic Club last week.

Pasky, whose company will celebrate its 25th anniversary in October, has grown S3 from a small start up to the 16th largest woman-owned staffing firm in the United States with 31 branches and more than 2,000 employees. A major factor in that success, Pasky said, is due to a customer-centered mentality across the organization and a diversified workforce that increasingly targets military veterans.

She said entrepreneurs have to be “intentional leaders” and show customers and staff that they care, have the courage to make tough decisions, create a sincere culture and engage customers in that culture.

“The way you grow your business is to know your numbers, costs and customers intimately,” Pasky said.

Inside the CEO Mind will continue on Feb. 10 featuring Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas. Hear the inside story that compelled the university to open its Detroit Center. For more information or to register for the event, click here.

‘Yes’ Vote for Road Funding Top Priority in Chamber Appearance on WJR’s Paul W. Smith Show from Lansing

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber, appeared on WJR 760’s Paul W. Smith Show last week in Lansing to discuss the Chamber’s advocacy efforts on transportation funding as part of its top 10 policy priorities for 2015.

Williams said fixing Michigan’s roads is a crucial economic and safety issue and spreading awareness and advocating for a “yes” vote will dominate the advocacy team’s agenda leading up to the May 5 ballot initiative. The Chamber will also continue to support policies that allow for the completion of the M-1 Rail, the development and implementation of the Regional Transit Authority’s strategy, the New International Trade Crossing and other high-impact transportation projects.

As Detroit continues to rebuild, Williams said supporting legislation that assists the city in managing its emergence from bankruptcy also remains a top priority, as well as education reform and accessibility. Click here to listen to the interview.