Long known for its it workforce readiness programs, Goodwill Industries of Detroit started its Flip the Script program in 2003, targeting minority men ages 18-30 who reside in the city of Detroit and Wayne County for careers in the building and construction trades industry. The program is an intensive curriculum centered on gender and culture-specific training in the critical areas of mathematics, reading enrichment, positive relationship development, fatherhood, workplace ethics and “the other 16 hours” that are important to becoming economically self-sufficient and a positive head of household.
The program, which got off the ground thanks to a grant from the Thompson McCulley Foundation, currently boasts more than 500 graduates. In 2008, the program moved to a larger facility in Detroit, allowing it to serve up to 180 men at a time. It contains six modules covering 15 skills in construction, but director Keith Bennett expects to add modules in deconstruction and wind and solar installation as soon as curricula becomes available. Since math is so fundamental to success in the construction industry, the program specifically focuses on improving participants’ math skills. Participants often improve by two grade levels from entry to completion. Though only the last three weeks of the program focus on industry-specific training, over 75 percent of participants have passed apprenticeship application tests in the building trades, and the Goodwill graduate certificate is recognized by trade and industry partners.
Employers and trade unions are highly engaged in the program’s advisory board, and Goodwill’s jobs developer conducts on-site visits with employers to gain further feedback and suggestions on curriculum. Feedback from employers and the trades has made clear that employers don’t want Flip the Script to replicate what is covered in apprenticeship programs; instead, they want just enough information covered to ease participants’ transitions to careers in the building and construction trades industry.
In 2009, the program will have three cohorts of approximately 60 participants each. Many are ex-offenders, and a GED or high school diploma is not required to apply for the program. Participants can avail themselves of Goodwill’s many support services, including help with cleaning up driver’s license records, assistance in paying for public transportation, and tuition subsidies for continuing education at local community colleges.