91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
The Detroit Journalism Cooperative is an integrated community media network providing insight on the issues facing Detroit. It features two radio stations, an online magazine, five ethnic newspapers, and a public television station-- All working together to tell the story of Detroit.The DJC includes Michigan Radio, Bridge Magazine, Detroit Public Television, WDET, and New Michigan Media. To see all the stories produced for the DJC, visit The Intersection website.Scroll below to see DJC stories from Michigan Radio and other selected stories from our partners.

How Detroit Manufacturing Systems hired hundreds of workers in the city

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Detroit's unemployment is high, really high. It's nearly 18%. That’s almost double the Michigan rate of unemployment and Michigan is among the worst in the nation.

So, when a manufacturer hires hundreds of Detroit residents, it gets attention.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

In a little more than a year-and-a-half, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has hired 729 people at its plant in the city. More than two-thirds of those workers live in Detroit.

“We’re one of three companies that Andra Rush owns under the Rush Group,” said DMS Human Resources Director Rosemary Brewer.

That name,  Andra Rush, might sound familiar.

She sat with First Lady Michelle Obama last week during the State of the Union address as President Barack Obama mentioned her.

Credit courtesy: White House
courtesy: White House
President Barack Obama spoke about Andra Rush and Detroit Manufacturing Systems in his recent State of the Union of address.

“Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make those parts.  She just needed the workforce.  So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or a better job.  She was flooded with new workers.”

President Obama used Detroit Manufacturing Systems as an example of a company benefiting from the so-called American Job Centers. In this case, it was the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation.

Pamela Moore heads up the non-profit which gets federal funding. She says her group, which used to be a city of Detroit agency, has changed its approach. It used to be someone without a job would come in, tell the agency what vocation they wanted to pursue, and that person would get the training they needed for that job. The problem was that often there weren’t a lot of jobs in that field. That approach earned the nickname “train and pray.”

But these days the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation takes a different approach.

“Now it’s a demand-driven system. We look to the employer to tell us what the demand is, the kinds of skills that they’re looking for, and that is how we determine how to use our resources,” Moore explained.

So, Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation screens potential workers, tests them for literacy, manual dexterity, offers some training, and whatever the employer might need.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Detroit Manufacturing Systems production line for Ford Mustang instrument panels.

Moore says Detroit Manufacturing Systems has been its biggest success story.

“The Detroit Manufacturing Systems relationship has resulted in a 2-to-1 recruitment to hire ratio. So, every two people that we send, they hire one and that’s an incredible ratio,” she said.

At Detroit Manufacturing Systems, Rosemary Brewer says on average, the workers had been unemployed for 18 months. It didn’t make sense to ignore a talent pool right in Detroit.

“You want people that are from the area to say, ‘I’m just as valuable and viable to work as the next person. If I don’t have the means to get out to the suburbs, should I be denied the opportunity to have a good-paying job?'” Brewer said.

Detroit Manufacturing Systems is a union shop represented by UAW Local 600. Pay starts at eleven dollars an hour and each year goes up a dollar an hour. There’s health insurance, a retirement plan, and  tuition assistance amounting to $5200 a year for any kind of schooling a worker chooses.

On the floor workers are building instrument panels for Ford’s Mustang, the F-150 truck, the Explorer, the Expedition, the Taurus, and the Focus.

Damon Thomas says getting a job at a manufacturing plant in Detroit these days means something.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Damon Thomas

“It’s good to know that somebody is willing to give us another chance. You know, other generations, they were able to come into Ford and manufacturing and everything. But, to be chosen, to be accepted, and to be able to come into this company like that, it was an honor to me,” Thomas said.

Detroit Manufacturing Systems has been steadily growing since it started during the summer of 2012.  The Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation says there are plenty of other people in Detroit ready to work if they get the chance.

Support for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative on Michigan Radio comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism's Michigan Reporting Initiative, and the Ford Foundation.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.