Program Teaches Young Adults Industry, Fights Blight

A group of young adults is learning about the construction trade and helping Detroit in its battle against neighborhood blight by boarding up vacant schools across the city.

📅   Wed October 21, 2015 - Midwest Edition
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A group of young adults is learning about the construction trade and helping Detroit in its battle against neighborhood blight by boarding up vacant schools across the city.
A group of young adults is learning about the construction trade and helping Detroit in its battle against neighborhood blight by boarding up vacant schools across the city.

DETROIT (AP) A group of young adults is learning about the construction trade and helping Detroit in its battle against neighborhood blight by boarding up vacant schools across the city.

About 40 people in the city’s Opportunity Detroit Youth & Trades Board-Up Program have spent the summer securing doors and windows at 23 buildings, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The program started in June and employs workers ages 18 to 24. They earn $9.50 per hour.

“The idea was to address blight,’’ Project Director Rodney Prater told the newspaper. “But the main purpose was to train people who otherwise might have never seen a saw or a hammer, with a long-term goal that they become qualified or prequalified apprentices in the building trades. It’s not just a job. This could easily turn into long-term careers for them.’’

Detroit has one of the highest jobless rates in the country. As the city was heading into its 2013 bankruptcy filing, then-emergency manager Kevyn Orr wrote to Detroit’s creditors that the unemployment rate was more than 18 percent.

Comparably, Michigan’s unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in August.

The Opportunity Detroit Youth & Trades Board-Up Program provides at least some jobs in the city.

“It’s a great program, showing young adults different things they can do with their hands, instead of always being in the streets,’’ said Kierra O’Rear.

O’Rear and others in the program spent a day boarding up Detroit’s former Greenfield Park Elementary.

The city and federal funds cover the program’s $850,000 cost to run. Additional grant money is being sought.