For many, the drab unemployment offices will be replaced with a bright shade of green … environmental technology.
The Detroit Conservation Corps (DCC) is training unemployed people in Detroit in green technology and will use help them find successful employment after graduation. The program is a partnership between The Greening of Detroit, Focus: HOPE, Neighborhood Services Organization (NSO), and the McGregor Fund.
DCC will provide landscaping jobs for the unemployed in Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck. The goal is to train and employ 2,500 Detroiters by 2020.
“The Detroit Conservation Corps plans to train 2,500 Detroiters over the next five years in the skilled trades of landscape technicians, tree artisans, floral decor, urban agriculture, landscape construction, and urban forestry,” says Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of The Greening of Detroit. “Our partners at Focus: Hope, NSO, and the McGregor Fund are all committed to giving unemployed Detroiters the dignity of a living wage job, a pathway to a better future, and the opportunity to help transform their lives – and their communities.”
A large number of setbacks can cause people to have trouble finding gainful employment. They include incarceration, substance abuse, homelessness, lack of education or job skills. The plan is help them start over and make a decent living.
“This program changed my life,” says DCC graduate David Bryant. “I have been in and out of jail since I was 15 years old. I have 12 siblings and my mother lost custody of all of us due to addiction. I never knew my father. This training boosted my confidence and gives me hope for a better tomorrow. The Greening is more concerned with our futures than our pasts. I learned a lot of things, and I am ready to work.”
The whole program takes eight weeks to complete and begin a new life. Those completing it have landscape technical training, work-readiness skills and case management services and are ready to be placed right into the new job. The City of Detroit will hire many of the graduates to fill the needed manpower for many of the transformative projects planned around the city. Many of those graduates will help make their own neighborhoods into healthier, greener spaces.
The first crew already is at work clearing and prepping nearly 300 vacant lots in the Fitzgerald neighborhood.
Detroit Conservation Corps was the brainchild of McGregor Fund President Kate Levin Markel.
“The city of Detroit cannot come back if the people here are not part of the change they want to see here. We needed to make sure Detroiters were part of the city’s transformation, and the DCC gives people that chance,” she says.
McGregor Fund was the initial lead contributor to the program with a $500,000 grant.
JP Morgan Chase is another major funder of the DCC, contributing $1 million and donating a Chase Bank branch office that now serves as the new workforce training hub. Other funders and sponsors include the James and John Knight Foundation, Bank of America, Citizens Bank, PNC, GBT, Carhartt, Freshii, and Lunchtime Global.