Reading Works Helps Detroiters Launch Careers

By Kevin Lignell, Communications and Development Director

As Detroit evolves into a city of the future, workforce development is becoming one of the hottest topics.

Reading Works Impact Partners have become key contributors to this evolution by working together, helping Detroiters gain the literacy skills they need to participate in current and future jobs.

Despite a surge in economic growth, businesses are facing a unique challenge: a shortage of skilled workers. In a recent article in Crain’s Detroit Business, President and CEO Doug Rothwell of Business Leaders of Michigan explained that this shortage is caused by a combination of an aging population and declining educational attainment.

“We face a significant talent gap over the long term,” said Rothwell.

Jobs increasingly require more education, training and skills – especially opportunities that pay wages that can support a family. By the end of 2018, jobs in Detroit requiring a high school diploma or less are expected to drop by more than 19,000, while jobs requiring an associate’s degree or higher will grow by more 21,000.

The poor literacy rate in Detroit reflects similar statistics around Michigan and the country. Yet as our Impact Partners will tell you, individuals seeking literacy services are smart, hard-working, and just need short-term support to acquire the skills needed to improve their employability.

The good news is, the City of Detroit’s Workforce Development Board, cochaired by Cynthia Pasky of Strategic Staffing Solutions and David Meador of DTE Energy and consisting of top corporate and organizational leaders, is focused on getting Detroit residents into available jobs. Strategies include developing employerdriven apprenticeships and training opportunities; and breaking down barriers to employment, such as low literacy.

“To bring the city back, we need jobs, and then we need to train Detroiters to fill those jobs,” said Mayor Mike Duggan to the Detroit Free Press.

Reading Works Executive Director Paula Brown chairs the subcommittee on Literacy, Transportation and Other Barriers. “The Workforce Development Board demonstrates the City’s true commitment to reducing barriers so that all Detroiters can participate in these growing opportunities,” says Brown. “We know if an individual has the reading skills for today’s jobs, they have the skills they need to improve all aspects of the life.”


Helms, Matt. “Detroit Aims to Cut Unemployment.” Detroit Free Press. Detroit Free Press, 19 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Sept. 2016. 

Walsh, Dustin. “Study: Labor Shortage in Michigan Looms.” Crain’s Detroit Business. Crain’s Detroit Business, 29 Apr. 2016. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.

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