We Observed the Power of Passion in Detroit’s Construction Community

Open Road — Week One by Team WCKD Wolverines

The phone rang in Stephanie’s office. She picked up and heard a former student’s voice on the other end. “Stephanie, I don’t know what to do. I have two job offers for commercial truck driving. Which one should I take?” Our team could feel the energy in the room as we sat listening to this conversation. Stephanie Vomvolakis, the Business Services Manager at Detroit Training Center told us that this student had previously spent 12 years in prison and had no work experience. He was a challenging case for the team, and they were so thrilled to hear his news.

Detroit Training Center (DTC) was founded in 2012, by Patrick Beal and Marcus Jones, with the aim of creating moments like the one we observed in Stephanie’s office. With Patrick’s expertise in the construction industry and Marcus’ knowledge of sustainability and real estate, they formed a team to develop hands-on, vocational training courses for the skilled construction trades that focus on placing returning citizens and the unemployed into the workforce.

Patrick and Marcus also believe — just as Detroit has benefited from DTC’s involvement — Flint deserves this same kind of programming. Enter the Flint Training Center (FTC). When Patrick proposed that we work with him to bring DTC’s positive impact to Flint, our team lit up at the opportunity to play even a minuscule role in addressing Flint’s infrastructure and employment challenges.

WCKD began researching the Flint market conditions and potential partnerships with nonprofits, government agencies, and potential Flint employers who might hire graduating FTC students. What began as a Flint Training Center business plan quickly morphed into a 6-page, visual marketing document that could be sent to potential partners in Flint. Our team conducted interviews with nonprofit and government workforce development staff that informed the central message of these marketing communications. The message was: Detroit Training Center will work to earn the trust of the Flint community, and it has the unique expertise to train the workforce to meet Flint’s unique needs. After a week’s worth of hard work with us, one DTC employee found the words to say, “Having you all here has really lit a fire for us to move into Flint.”

Final Day at DTC after Team WCKD’s Presentation

This week, DTC left their inspiring mark on us. We were moved by the energy of a small office that operates like a family. Patrick and Marcus guide the primary vision behind the operation. Yet, their most impressive accomplishment (in our opinion) is how their entire team moves in unison. DTC’s staff (Stephanie, Nikeya, Naya, Sam, Al, Johnny and all the instructors) forms the heart of this company; their passion, compassion, kindness, and dedication allow DTC to shine in Detroit. In that environment, we learned that an effective, admirable leader is incomplete on her/his own. The beauty of great leadership is that, as long as there is balance on the team, no single leader needs to be perfect or complete. As we expected, DTC changed us and taught us in more and more profound ways than we could ever impact them, and for that we are grateful.

Detroit Training Center + Team WCKD Wolverines at The Skip in Detroit. Photo Courtesy: Center for Social Impact