The Oakland University Pontiac Initiative is collaborating with more than 27 organizations from government, industry, education and the non-profit sector as part of the Talent Development Coalition (TDC), which seeks to provide training and jobs for un- or underemployed workers using a $150,000 Marshall Plan for Talent Innovation Grant from the State of Michigan.
“Oakland University is strongly behind this effort,” said Kevin Corcoran, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and OU’s chief community engagement officer.
Under the direction of Pastor Douglas Jones of the Greater Pontiac Community Coalition and Dr. David Strubler, professor and chair of the Department of Organizational Leadership at OU, the TDC has been charged with creating high-need talent development programs in construction, advanced manufacturing, business and information technology, and health care.
“The TDC is a transformational construct which combines leaders and stakeholders from across all sectors and backgrounds,” said Pontiac Mayor Deidre Waterman. “Coming together under the banner of our five-year long OU Pontiac Initiative, the TDC will create meaningful programs for our citizens, community, and our economy.”
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner agreed.
“The TDC has the potential to put a sizeable and positive ‘dent’ in the county’s workforce, community, and economic development efforts,” he said.
The first TDC pilot project, the Alliance for Construction Education — a paid, 12-week, pre-apprentice program — was launched in June 2019 and was led by Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County and 1-800-HANSONS, Michigan’s largest home remodeling company.
“This program creates a needed bridge that connects people interested in construction careers to apprentice programs and employers,” said 1-800-HANSONS CEO Steve Silvers. “At the same time, we are happy to assist in providing affordable housing for the community.”
Other Alliance partners include Oakland University, Oakland County Michigan Works! Pontiac, Oakland Community College, Oakland Intermediate School District (OISD), the Pontiac Promise Zone, The Flowers Institute and the Homebuilders Association of Michigan, with support provided by REDICO, American House Senior Living Communities and Continuum Services.
“Oakland County Michigan Works! is excited to be a partner in this project,” said Shannell Shelby, director of the Oakland County Michigan Works! Pontiac program.
This fall, Habitat and Hanson’s are collaborating with the Flowers Institute and Oakland County Michigan Works! Pontiac to recruit students interested in entering the construction trades for all-expenses-paid pre-apprentice and apprentice programs starting Sept. 23.
“Our job is to work with 1-800-HANSONS and other companies to recruit, retain, guide, coach and place the students,” said Carlton Jones of the Flowers Institute.
“We also provide them (the students) with an outstanding supervisor on the job who is a pro at working with beginners in the trades,” said Habitat’s CEO Tim Ruggles.
Pre-apprentices are paid to work and learn with Habitat (30 hours per week) and a construction course (10 hours per week) with OU’s Dr. Scott Crabill, an associate professor in the Department of Communication, Journalism and Public Relations.
“Our first summer group is already half-way through the class and doing a great job renovating a Habitat home for a family in Oakland County,” Crabill said. “All of them will be interviewed by Hanson’s or their employers.”
After completing the Alliance program, students are encouraged to start formal apprenticeships with company or union programs or to continue their education at Baker College, Oakland Community College, or Oakland University.
“We know that some of these trained TDC students will become engineers, nurses, manufacturing and construction supervisors, computer and IT experts and business people,” Corcoran said. “And yes, we do encourage them to come back for studies at OU in the years to come.”
According to Teresa Rodges, chair of the Pontiac Promise Zone (PPZ), high school and GED recipients who have graduated from one of 10 Pontiac-approved schools within the past five years may be eligible for tuition assistance from the PPZ.
“There may be other funding sources to pay tuition for veterans, returning, and recovering citizens of all ages,” Strubler said. “We strongly encourage both men and women to apply for these careers.”
Anyone interested in the fall pre-apprentice construction program, which begins Sept. 23, can contact JR Lafnear at 1-800-HANSONS, ext. 3621 firstname.lastname@example.org.