Study: City must solve jobs-labor puzzle

Detroit faces a labor problem of epic proportions. The revived Detroit Workforce Development Board, which convened for the first time late last month to tackle the goal of creating 100,000 jobs in the city, is working toward streamlining programs to create a systematic, unified approach to employing Detroit residents — who are largely underemployed and undereducated. But the problem is complex and massive in scope in a city where jobs don't match the population. Just over half of Detroit residents work, and a majority of those working have no more than a high school diploma. The harsh reality that faces the board: The city needs to put 49,000 of its residents to work just to match the state average of labor force participation. Despite dozens of labor training programs, new business investments and fixes to the city's broken education system, the jobs aren't coming fast enough. "This is the biggest problem Detroit faces and (is) why it hasn't been revitalized beyond downtown and Midtown," said Marick Masters, professor of management at Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business and director of Labor@Wayne. All the other problems devolve from this: the inability to have good schools, to have adequate lighting, the lack of infrastructure, housing, etc." The workforce board plan must be of a large scale, Masters said. "A problem like this requires a large-scale undertaking that will be very expensive," Masters said. "We've got to think outside the box. What we've been doing hasn't worked." Masters said the workforce board needs to attract federal dollars to make any plan work and to create a cohesive one-stop shop through which to funnel Detroit's unemployed workforce.

Crain's Detroit Business

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