Green Jobs Training Program (2008-2017)

Green Jobs Training Program (2008-2017)

Detroit’s First Comprehensive Green Jobs Training Program

Our first workforce training program operated for over a decade and its positive impacts continue to be felt by Detroit residents to this day. At the time, our program was the city’s only comprehensive green jobs training program. It existed in partnership with Clark Atlanta University’s Environmental Justice Resource Center and Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund, was approved by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and was accredited through the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University (New Orleans, LA). The 12-week program delivered job training skills for the emerging Green Economy and built community, business and university relationships. Similar programs were also implemented in New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, and Baton Rouge. Our operation trained up to 500 Detroit workers and was a leading member in this coalition of green job programs.

From Start to Finish 

The program provided participants with basic skills, technical and green job skills training, certifications, on-site job training, practice with soft skills training (teamwork, interpersonal relationships), as well as job placement assistance.

Basic Skills

  • Study skills
  • Mathematics
  • Introduction to hazardous materials
  • Physical fitness
  • Computer basics
  • Life skills
  • Job readiness

A counseling component to the program provided students with problem intervention and assistance, and information on a wide range of social services to aid them in achieving their educational and vocational goals. 

Green Tracks

Participants had opportunities to acquire skills in the following environmental/green work fields:

  • Energy Audits/Retrofitting: Energy audits evaluate a system (such as a building) to understand its energy use. Retrofitting is the adding of new technology or features to an existing building to make it more energy efficient. 
  • Computer Aided Design (CAD): the use of computer technology to aid in the design and drafting of a part, a product, or entire buildings.
  • Deconstruction: the selective disassembly of building components, specifically for reuse, recycling and reducing waste. It is a way of salvaging the value in a building that is to be taken down. 
  • Geothermal systems: Ground source heat pumps use the natural warmth of the Earth to heat and cool your building. 
  • Green Landscaping: a method of designing and maintaining yards, gardens, and larger areas to reduce harm to the environment, save time and money with lower maintenance, and have healthier places to work and play.

Training and Certification 

The program included state-administered certification testing for each technical segment. After satisfactory completion of the program, each participant received Asbestos, Lead, and Mold Hazardous Waste Worker Certification (HAZWOPER), an OSHA 10 workplace card, and First Aid/CPR certification. 

Job Placement and Career Training

Throughout the training, participants worked with a job coach to acquire skills like resume building, interviewing techniques, and other career development skills. 

DWEJ Apprenticeship Readiness Program 

This program, created in 2013, accelerated career opportunities for Detroit residents in the building trades and labor unions by bridging the “skills gap” for individuals who lacked the necessary skills needed to become craft professionals. The DWEJ Apprenticeship Readiness Program was a 12-week training program designed to develop, observe and evaluate the progressive development of job readiness, skill assessment and curriculum comprehension of participants. 

Training included:

  1. Workshops: Candidates were required to attend all four workshops before entering the training program. Workshops were designed to give students personal and career building tools necessary for success in career planning in the building trades, job search skills, financial literacy, as well as personal development with an emphasis on positive self-esteem, responsibility taking, enhanced interpersonal skills (i.e. motivation, punctuality, reliability, team building, task completion), and workplace diversity. A final workshop was offered on the “fundamentals of environmental literacy”, i.e., the basics of environmental science, best practices and how to apply them in a green and built environment.
  2. Classroom and Technical Training (12 weeks): The Construction Craft Laborer core-curriculum was part of one of 70 craft areas taught. This curriculum introduced the trainee to a variety of trades, including carpentry, masonry, ironworking, electrical, welding, heavy equipment, and crane operation. Upon completion of this two-level course, trainees had the basic knowledge needed on any job site.  The Construction Craft Laborer curriculum covered subjects such as, Site Layout, Reinforcing Concrete, and Electrical Safety. 
  3. Hands-on and Practical Experience: Trainees received on-the-job-training so that they developed the skills necessary to becoming an apprentice, and to develop the skills and proficiency of a journeyman worker. Training was under the direction and guidance of the instructor and project supervisor. 
  4. Module Examination and Testing: Trainees needed to score 70% or higher in each of the  9 modules to receive a certification of completion from the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER). 
  5. Performance Testing: Trainees needed to perform each task to the satisfaction of the instructor in order to receive a certificate of completion. Demonstrations were used to satisfy the performance test requirements.
  6. Placement and Follow-up: Through the Partnerships for Diversity & Opportunity and the websites, program applicants were able to directly apply to job openings. DWEJ’s community partners and Employment Advisory Council members were also committed to actively seeking placement for program graduates.  DWEJ would then follow-up with placements for one year through our Constituent Relationship Management system.
  7. Evaluation: The program was internally evaluated throughout its delivery process, with the goal of continuously improving each component of the program. An external evaluator was used to assist with end-of-grant reporting to the Kellogg Foundation, who funded the program.  Program metrics were used to help determine outcomes and the overall success of the initiative. 

Following the success of the Green Job Training Program, we launched Future Build Construction Group in 2017. This social enterprise was created to meet the growing need for green construction in Detroit and to hire our trainees. Today, our workforce program continues to evolve and remains integral to our mission.

Build Up Detroit (BUD) (2008-2012)

Build Up Detroit (BUD) (2008-2012)

Green jobs aren’t just for environmental specialists; they include jobs in manufacturing, services, skilled trades, design, scientific research & development.

Since 1994, DWEJ has advocated for educating and empowering the people of Detroit to “Take a Stand for the Land in the Hood” through our community and civic engagement programs. Like other groups, we advocated for better jobs with fair pay, so we decided to put our vision into action and created a job training program called BUD.

BUD, or Build Up Detroit, started in 2008 and was dedicated to transforming Detroit into a national leader in sustainability through a comprehensive strategy of: 

  • Green job creation and training
  • Civic engagement through youth programs and public education about health hazards
  • Community and economic development

BUD integrated economic development, social equity and environmental protection to promote a truly sustainable revitalization in Detroit and to empower communities to take leadership in transforming their environments into healthy places in which to live, work, and play. It encompassed some of our earlier programs and led the way in creating new ones as well.

BUD was truly ahead of its time and devised practical, creative solutions to previously unaddressed environmental justice problems in Detroit. For example, through our Workforce Development program, we were able to provide economic empowerment to low-income populations in the green construction industry. 

BUD: An Umbrella Program for Community and Civic Engagement Initiatives  

BUD training

Green Jobs Training 

The Green Jobs/Workforce Development Training program was created to prepare Detroit-area residents for jobs in the emerging green economy through state-certified training in lead, mold and asbestos abatement, hazardous waste worker training at EPA-approved technician level, energy-related technology and environmental assessments. We also developed a framework for a pre-apprenticeship training program, one of the few to invite citizens returning from incarceration.

Youth on Patrol Against Pollution

Following best practices in peer training, problem solving, intergenerational leadership, mentoring and community organizing, this program built youth capacity for advocacy and civic engagement. Students researched polluting facilities to conduct “toxic tours,” worked with the Belle Isle Nature Center, and prepared to start environmental justice clubs at their schools. Learn more.

Community Hazards Awareness Training Seminar (CHATS)

One of our earliest and longest running programs was created in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati and as part of the Midwest Consortium for Hazardous Waste Worker Training.  More than 5,000 people were trained through this program. DWEJ conducted seminars to help participants identify known asthma triggers and other health hazards in their homes and communities, such as lead and other toxins. CHATS was also an organizing tool – first to educate community members about the environmental health hazards in their homes and neighborhoods, and then to build their capacity to make their community a safer, healthier place to live for the most vulnerable population, such as children ages 5 to 14, minority populations, and low-income urban residents. 

Home Intervention Team (HIT)

Skilled professionals tested the home of children who had traces of lead in their systems and provided in-home intervention and remediation services, such as modified lead abatement, asthma trigger control and mold removal. 

A Vision for Sustainability

In addition to the programs above, BUD laid out full plans for a Detroit Sustainability Center, which was designed to bring our vision to life. The Detroit Sustainability Center was envisioned as a model for ecologically sustainable building that would serve as a networking resource and community education center.

photo by inFORM studio, Conservation Design Forum, and URS Corporation

Although the BUD program did not survive the substantial changes Detroit underwent from 2008 onward (corruption scandals, interim mayorship, special elections, bankruptcy, emergency management, etc.), it lives on today through our Green Jobs program and the Detroit Environmental Agenda Collaborative. It also inspired numerous organizations in Detroit in their fight for a greener, safer, and healthier city. 

Read Catalyzing a Sustainable Detroit: A Community Directed Strategic Plan.

Energy Efficiency Assistance Program (2017-Ongoing)

Energy Efficiency Assistance Program (2017-Ongoing)

Original Future Build Staff members (from left to right): Brian Duell, Carla King, Anetha Walker, Guy O. Williams, and Lynette Cobb

“Working for DWEJ definitely came as an answer to my prayer request. This life-changing experience has impacted my life, as well as my family’s lives in a way that I would have never imagined.  It manifested as a source of restoration for my sense of dignity and integrity, which I had been longing for. When I talk about what I do for a living, it gives me a sense of pride that is 00000rewarding and gratifying. Entering into the field that DWEJ works in definitely represented a new territory for me, and therefore a challenge. I credit my success within this company, first to God’s grace. Second, to the support of a great team of qualified colleagues that care about what they do.”
– Carla King, Energy Efficiency Specialist and graduate of DWEJ’s weatherization training program

“With the collaboration of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ) and Operation Able, I enrolled in the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and graduated with honors. The impact DWEJ has made on my life and career has been life-changing. Midway through my career, DWEJ gave me an opportunity to work with people again, and change their lives! DWEJ is an awesome organization to be a part of. Its mission has made and is still making a positive impact in the city of Detroit. DWEJ is all about making sure people live in a healthy and safe community. My experience has been a blessing and I am grateful. I’m surrounded by caring, intelligent, and remarkable people, who want to make a difference in the World for ALL people. I am proud to be one of their team members.”
– Anetha Walker, Energy Efficiency Specialist and graduate of DWEJ’s weatherization training program

What is the Energy Efficiency Assistance Program?

DWEJ’s Energy Efficiency Assistance (EEA) Program was born out of our Future Build Construction Group. We hired three graduates from the Future Build weatherization workforce training program in May, 2017 to work on the EEA program. We are happy to say that Anetha and Carla, two of our success stories, still work with us to this day.

Since 2008, Michigan utility companies have been required by law to create Energy Efficiency Assistance programs to help meet state energy standards. DTE Energy, Detroit’s largest electric utility, launched its EEA program in 2009, with a portion devoted to helping low-income residents who often pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income on their energy bills. 

DTE’s early attempts included supplementing federal weatherization funding to specialized agencies, but this proved insufficient in supporting low-income communities. Like many utilities, DTE struggled to attract participants for their low-income energy efficiency programs, due in part to language barriers, lack of information, negative past experiences with utility shutoffs, and the complex paperwork required to enroll. To remedy this issue, they created partnerships with more than 30 agencies and organizations that served and understood the needs and concerns of  low-income residents. DWEJ is one of those partner organizations.

In 2014, DTE added the Supporting Energy Efficiency in Detroit (SEED) Homes program to its EEA program as a way to expand their energy efficiency services by combining them with existing bill assistance benefits. DTE supplemented its partner organizations’ existing resources with its own funds generated from utility ratepayer surcharges, allowing its partners to expand their services to include energy efficiency improvements. In exchange, the partner organizations helped DTE increase program participation and in just the first year, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an amount comparable to the annual energy-related emissions of more than 1,000 homes.

By doing our part in this large-scale project, we not only help DTE honor its mandate to meet Michigan’s energy efficiency standards, we help our low-income residents reduce their costs and reduce their emissions. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved. On a more personal level, by making it possible for eligible participants to replace some of their old household appliances with newer, more energy efficient ones, we change lives in our community for the better. Through this work, DWEJ can address and improve household energy costs and efficiency.

Day-to-Day Work in the EEA Program

We are proud of the work we do, but none of it would be possible without our devoted staff: Lynette Cobb, Carla King, and Anetha Walker. 

Every day, our Energy Efficiency Specialists, Carla and Anetha, receive calls from local DTE Energy customers looking to benefit from the free services the EEA program offers. Their role is to educate callers on cost savings if they replaced some of their older household appliances (refrigerators, furnaces and water heaters, as well as incandescent light bulbs) with new energy efficient models. They then perform an assessment of each customer’s annual income to determine if they qualify for the DTE EEA Program. Once the assessment is complete and the customers have demonstrated their eligibility, Carla and Anetha create customer cases for new appliance installations.

Lynette Cobb, our EEA Program Administrator, then works with private contractors and delivery people to make sure the approved customers get their new appliances delivered and installed. Anetha and Carla also go into homes to help with the installation of LED light bulbs. Participants are educated about the EEA program, energy efficiency measures, the equipment being installed and their emissions, and the positive impact this will have on their energy bills. We have experienced strong customer satisfaction as a result of our hard work and our customers are very happy with the service they receive from us!

Positive Impacts of the Energy Efficiency Assistance Program 

I had a beautiful experience with you guys. I was so blessed that I received that call and that you guys were able to provide me with a new furnace. I cannot express the impact this overall experience has had on me, it was a miracle.”

Alberta Powers, Detroit resident  (Read her story.)

“This program is awesome. I’m a senior who was in desperate need of a furnace which was given to me. I could not have afforded to buy one. This program is needed very much and I appreciate being a recipient. Thank you so much.”

– Renee Henderson, Detroit resident

By helping families lower the burden of their high energy costs through our EEA program, we have helped improve:

  • Energy bills: Program participants enjoy energy cost savings
  • Quality of life: They develop more confidence in their ability to pay bills and avoid power shutoffs
  • Homes: By undergoing energy upgrades, participants’ homes become more comfortable and safer to live in
  • Air quality: Energy is saved and less pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere by polluting and expensive power plants. This also reduces the need to build new power plants
  • Public health: By improving air quality, Detroit residents run a lower risk of suffering from four of the leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease, and stroke, which are often directly associated with the presence of these pollutants in our atmosphere
  • Reliability: Reduced energy use also puts less strain on our vital electricity infrastructure. This is particularly important, given the amount of energy grid reliability issues we have in Michigan.

Job Creation

Jobs like the ones held by Carla, Anetha and Lynette are just a few of the tens of thousands created in Michigan by the energy efficiency industry. These jobs make up two thirds of Michigan’s clean energy jobs. This employment sector includes jobs like those in our EEA program, as well as jobs related to retrofitting ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in schools, insulating homes, and manufacturing ENERGY STAR-rated appliances. 

Detroit Sustainability Center (2008)

Detroit Sustainability Center (2008)

In 2008, DWEJ and the Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum partnered to develop plans for a building that would embody our sustainability ideals – the Detroit Sustainability Center (DSC). The DSC came from our trail-blazing Build Up Detroit program and was created to be a model community-driven green development that symbolized Detroit’s commitment to a green and socially just future, and serve as a community and professional resource hub for sustainability.

DSC Green cafe – photo by inFORM studio, Conservation Design Forum, and URS Corporation

Our Vision for the Detroit Sustainability Center

  1. Increase public and private collaboration to bring a comprehensive and efficient approach to promote greener, healthier buildings and communities.
  2. Enhance quality of life for the residents and workers in Detroit and surrounding communities.
  3. Expand the image of Detroit as a model of an equitable, sustainable green economy.
  4. Establish credible green policies and programs across the city and region through innovative public-private collaboration.

The idea behind the DSC was to create a centrally located model of an ecologically sustainable building. It would be the catalyst for promoting Detroit’s revitalization by providing a new model for urban redevelopment. The DSC would provide space for civic engagement, job training, green business incubation, green construction, and policy innovation initiatives. 

The Detroit Sustainability Center would provide:

  • State-certified job training in emerging green industries and brownfield remediation for displaced, unemployed, and underemployed workers
  • Resources for developers regarding green building techniques and financing tools for sustainable development
    •  A center for organizing and youth leadership in environmental stewardship
    • A green cafe serving locally grown food
  • A coordinating center for policy around sustainability issues
  • An incubator for startup businesses pursuing environmentally sustainable practices
  • Technical assistance to businesses to reduce their carbon footprint by incorporating pollution prevention mechanisms and/or employing best practices
    •  A sustainable solutions lab for public education, hands-on training and demonstrations
    • A Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum destination site with public access that would model Detroit’s unique opportunities for sustainable retrofitting of historic structures.

A Collaborative Effort 

Designing the DSC would not have been possible without the help and support of four gifted graduate students from the University of Michigan: Alycia Hillman, Sheila Somashekhar, Carmen Violich, and Natalie Zappella. Their project Catalyzing a Sustainable Detroit: A Community-Directed Strategic Plan was completed in collaboration with DWEJ, the Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, and an array of Detroit stakeholders, such as documentary-maker Bill Kubota, and businesses and organizations working on sustainable development. 

The purpose of the project was to, in the authors’ words, “represent the ways in which the tenets of sustainability could improve the lives of all people living and working in Detroit” and “to create a strategic plan for a sustainability resource and community activity center tailored to the unique conditions in the city of Detroit”. Without the help of these students, we would not have been able to plan our vision in such a meaningful way. We are extremely thankful for their help. 

inFORM studio, Conservation Design Forum, along with URS Corporation were wonderful partners throughout the process as well. They helped us with the creation of our 2010  Detroit Sustainability Center: Schematic Design Package.

Despite our plans, the Detroit Sustainability Center has yet to become a reality. However, it serves as a great example of our history as innovators, a trait that lives on to this day as we continue on a journey of transformation. It also remains on our “to-do” list. DWEJ would love to see this project or one like it become a reality one day. Would you? We cannot do it without your support.