Two Obama administration officials were in Detroit this week to highlight White House efforts to help Detroit.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Macomb Community College.
That school is one of eight Michigan community colleges sharing a $25 million grant to “create and expand innovative partnerships between community colleges and businesses” to train more workers for in-demand jobs.
The federal government has not offered Detroit any direct help to get through bankruptcy, but Duncan says the White House wants to be “a good partner” to Detroit.
“We know how hard the work is,” Duncan says. “We know how important the work is. And whatever we can do to help you get where you need to go, faster, bring this city back as quick as we can…we’re in it for the long haul.”
Duncan and Perez also attended the launch of “Hire Detroit!,” an initiative designed to encourage companies to “hire at least one qualified unemployed city resident.”
Detroit’s official unemployment rate is 16%, though experts say in reality it’s likely more than double that. There are 66,000 documented unemployed people in the city.
The two officials say there are jobs out there for people with the right skills. They encouraged young people and the unemployed to train for jobs in growing fields, and hone the “soft skills” that will help them land jobs.
But Ishmail Terry, with the Detroit education non-profit All Four One, says Detroit kids with the right skills still face obstacles to getting jobs.
“Every time I try to place them in a job…[the business owners] don’t want anything to do with those kids,” Terry says. “They think these are the neighborhood kids who do all kinds of despicable things. There’s a lot of prejudice.”