August 29, 2017

Access for All: Powered by partners

Access for All teachers and students help board up a vacant home in southwest Detroit as part of a weeklong work project.Editor’s note: United Way partners involved in Access for All include Ford Foundation, Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Michigan Human Resource Development Inc. (HRDI), and the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund. To read more about how the program is helping Detroiters find good jobs, click here.

More than 8 percent of Detroiters are unemployed, according to the latest job figures, while many more are underemployed. There’s a demand for high-skilled work, but employers say there aren’t enough skilled employees to fill all positions.

One of the solutions to address the gap is Access for All, a nine-week skilled trades training class offered free of charge to adults. United Way for Southeastern Michigan, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Ford Foundation and Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan are among the partners who invested in the program’s initial planning phase, along with industry stakeholders and skilled trades training directors.

Graduates of the program are qualified to immediately enter construction pre-apprenticeship programs that pay a livable wage.

“Employment is the only way out of poverty,” Ed Egnatios, Program Officer at W.K. Kellogg Foundation, said. “We’re giving residents the power to shape their future and build a better Detroit.”

Access for All: Bringing buildings to life

Access for All alumni have helped build roads, construct buildings and bring Little Caesars Arena to life.

Workers use a skill saw to cut a board.

“Together, we can forge new paths,” Ed said. “Everyone benefits from this: Labor, partners and the community.”

In addition to providing funding, United Way offers guidance, helps shape the curriculum and promotes the program to potential students. It all falls under United Way’s Economic Prosperity work.

“The need is so great,” Wendy Jackson, Managing Director at Kresge Foundation, said. “There are a number of folks seeking employment. How can we ensure the cohorts continue but also continue to get larger in order to be able to serve more Detroiters?”

Access for All is optimized to meet the demand of the industry so graduates won’t be stuck without a job. However, there is room for expansion. Ed said the long-term goal is to increase the number of funders to the point where Access for All sees 200 pre-apprentices graduate each year.

Wendy feels so strongly about Access for All that she ranks attending the first class’s graduation among the highlights of her philanthropic career.

“I can’t overstate the feeling of pride I had when watching those graduates go through that program and receive their certificate,” Wendy said.

“It’s more than just being able to have a training experience and a job placement at the end — this will fundamentally change their lives and the lives of their families. Being part of that moment is something I will never forget.”