For DTE Leaders, Revitalizing Randolph is Personal
Here’s a rundown of where the money came from:
Gordie Howe Bridge Workforce Training Fund, $3.5 million
City of Detroit Workforce Training Fund, $1.75 million
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, $1.5 million
DTE Energy, $1.1 million (cash and in-kind services)
JPMorgan Chase Co., $500,000
Detroit Employment Services Solutions Corp., $500,000
Ford Motor Co., $300,000
Bedrock LLC, $250,000 (in-kind services)
Barton Malow Co., $125,000 (cash and in-kind services)
Ford Motor Company Fund, $100,000
UAW Ford, $100,000
Detroit Pistons, $100,000
Walbridge Aldinger Co., $100,000
Gensler, $80,000 (in-kind services)
Detroit Public Schools Community District, $77,000
When DTE Energy Co. Vice Chairman Dave Meador started to assemble an internal company team to manage his project of revamping Detroit’s Randolph Technical High School after years of decline, Jay Williams didn’t think twice.
“I raised my hand and said, ‘That one’s mine,'” said Williams, a senior project manager for capital construction at DTE.
Williams got his start full time at the Detroit-based energy company in 1999 after graduating from Randolph’s high school and adult skilled trades programs in drafting.
“It was what allowed me the opportunity come here at DTE Energy, in the drafting department, with the skills I learned right here in Randolph,” Williams said Monday.
Williams became DTE’s volunteer project manager at Randolph this summer, overseeing $2.4 million in renovations largely paid for by cash and in-kind donations from DTE, other Detroit companies and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.
The fresh paint, new lighting and classroom renovations as well as $765,000 in new equipment and supplies is aimed at boosting enrollment in Randolph, which has a capacity of 700 students and had been teetering on the brink of closure in recent years with fewer than 150 students.
The school also is going to open its doors in October to adult skilled trades job training programs, with the goal of having 300 high school students during the day and 300 adults at night getting trained for in-demand jobs in the construction industry.
“This school is going to be what helps the kids of Detroit not just stay out of jail and not just graduate from high school, but to become thriving, growing members of this society,” Williams said. “And that’s what’s important.”
Mayor Mike Duggan, Meador and other business and city officials involved in revamping Randolph gathered Monday morning to showcase the building’s recent renovations.
Meador, who also is DTE’s chief administrator officer, has been on a mission of sorts for the past few years, working on trying to fix Detroit’s labor shortages, particularly in the skilled trades.
His mission is personal.
As a child, Meador said his father changed careers from an auto mechanic to a teacher at Murray-Wright High School on Detroit’s west side, which closed in 2007.
“He understood the value of technical schools,” Meador said. “He said, ‘You know, Dave, you need to take one of these shop classes. I know you want to go to college.'”
Meador said his welding skills helped put him through Wayne State University, where he earned an accounting degree and an MBA. Those degrees sparked a rise through the ranks of major corporations in metro Detroit, before becoming the No. 2 at DTE in 2013.
“The welding job provided the funds I needed to go to college,” said Meador, who co-chairs the mayor’s Workforce Development Board.
The efforts to revitalize the school and rename it Randolph Career Technical Center began before Nikolai Vitti became the new superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District in May.
Vitti, a Dearborn Heights native who came to Detroit from the Jacksonville, Fla., school system, said Monday he’s been impressed by the speed of attempting to turnaround the school.
“I’ve had the fortune of working in multiple cities and I can tell you that there are very few mayors or business communities that have come and rallied together as quickly as this mayor has done … to actually implement reform rather than just talk about rhetoric linked to supporting K-12 education,” Vitti said.
Detroit’s school district is working with Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., the city’s workforce development arm, on revamping and improving the skill trades curriculum at Randolph.
Duggan said the school is crucial to training more Detroiters to be licensed carpenters, plumbers and electricians.
Detroit’s shortage of residents who are apprentices or journeymen has been on full display over the past two years during the construction of the new Little Caesars Arena, which is scheduled to open next month.
The city has fined contractors $2.9 million for not meeting a city requirement that at least 51 percent of the workforce be Detroiters.
Detroit has a city ordinance requiring contractors working for the Ilitch family-owned Olympia Development meet the majority Detroiter hiring threshold or pay a fine.
About $1.75 million of the fines are going toward the skilled trades training programs at Randolph through the city’s Workforce Training Fund.
“In the past, if a company like the Ilitches had to pay a fine for not hiring Detroiters, that money went somewhere in the city coffers,” Duggan said Monday. “Now, because of our partnership with Detroit City Council, every penny of it goes into these kinds of job-training programs.”
DTE Energy donated $1.1 million in cash and in-kind services, the largest single amount for a Detroit company. The Wilson Foundation donated $1.5 million toward the $10 million fundraising goal.
Another $3.5 million is coming from a job-training fund the state has setup as part of planned construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
City Councilwoman Janeé Ayers, whose mother and aunt taught at Randolph, praised the partnership between city government and business.
“When they say, the naysayers, that the government doesn’t care, downtown doesn’t care, we do care,” Ayers said. “This is a prime example of putting partners together that have the same vision for Detroit.”
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