City hopes to have 10,000 qualified Detroiters for Fiat Chrysler jobs

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Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan hopes the city will be able to give Fiat Chrysler Automobile a list of 10,000 qualified Detroiters for employment at its $2.5 billion Jeep plant expansion on city’s east side. That’s more than twice the nearly 5,000 jobs the investment is expected to bring to the city.

“Our agreement is they have to interview all Detroit candidates before they interview anybody from the suburbs,” Duggan said Tuesday during a Detroit at Work Job Readiness fair at Messiah Baptist Church. “Some of the 5,000 jobs may be taken up by UAW folks coming from another place, but once they start the hiring, the hiring comes off of this list. We are preparing our residents for these jobs.”

The city said more than 9,000 Detroiters have attended one of the 200-plus job-readiness fairs, a requirement for all residents seeking priority application access.

This is the last week for Detroiters to attend one of the job fairs. The last one will be held 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at Second Ebenezer Church, 14601 Dequindre St. To attend, Detroiters must register online in advance at detroitatwork.com/fca.

The job fairs have drawn a range of job seekers — from those that have been unemployed and out of the workforce for a while, to those currently employed in other industries.

“We have folks from a variety of industries that see this as a step up,” said Nicole Sherard-Freeman, who was announced Tuesday as the city’s executive director of workforce development. She replaces Jeff Donofrio, who left to become director of new Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity for the state of Michigan.

Sherard-Freeman said that the turnout shows that Detroiters do want to work. The challenge is dispelling misconceptions about what it is like to work in a manufacturing environment.

“This is not your grandfather’s plant,” she said. “Folks don’t know conditions are different. They’re very clean, updated, technology-current environments that are really great places to work.”

Fiat Chrysler received approval in May from the city and state to invest $1.6 billion in expanding its Mack Avenue facilities with a new plant, and $900 million to modernize its Jefferson North Assembly Plant for production of the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee as well as an all-new three-row full-size Jeep SUV and plug-in hybrid models. The company plans to introduce vehicles from the new assembly plant by late 2020.

In a community benefits agreement drafted by an advisory council of neighborhood residents, the city and the automaker, Fiat Chrysler has been charged with hiring as many Detroiters as it can to fill the 4,950 jobs that remain after union-hiring obligations are met.

According to the automaker, the jobs in Detroit will pay an average of $58,000 annually and will include assembly line workers, plant managers and skilled-trades positions.

Among those hopeful for a job is Dominique McCaskle, 28, a part-time on-call janitor.

McCaskle and her husband have five children in a blended family. She says that while they’re able to budget their finances well, full-time employment with Fiat Chrysler would give them the ability to do more.

“It would provide the second income my family needs,” she said. “Not to just survive, but to actually get us to a place where we can save. We can plan things for our kids’ college and have a better life…The kids like extracurricular activities, we want better educational opportunities. A second income would really support that.”

Interviews for Detroit residents will begin later this month or early September, Sherard-Freeman said. Prior to that, Detroit at Work will offer basic math and literacy tutoring for applicants that need to brush up on their skills.

After that, the application window will be open for all other job-seekers. Conditional offers will be made late this year with start dates by early 2020.

The job-readiness fairs have drawn interest from other employers seeking Detroit applicants.

Detroit Police Department plans to hire 300 officers in the next year.

Dakkota Integrated Systems, which builds automotive interior components, suspensions and grilles, plans to create 625 jobs as part of a $55 million factory to be built on the 32-acre site of the vacant Kettering High School and Rose Elementary School buildings on Van Dyke at Interstate 94. The Michigan-based company will supply Fiat Chrysler’s new Jeep assembly plant on Mack.

“Even if you don’t want to go to work at FCA,” Duggan said. “Even if you don’t get here on Thursday, there are thousands of other jobs all available at Detroitatwork.com… It’s becoming a competitive asset.”

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