It’s estimated that about 35% of the current trades workforce in the energy industry was eligible to retire at the beginning of 2020. With that many openings, there’s an opportunity to educate young people – and people of all ages – about the many high-growth career opportunities available in the skilled trades. There are also many opportunities for organizations to help lift up the educational institutions that prepare students from underrepresented communities to enter high-growth, high-demand fields. That’s why DTE Energy, a longtime partner of Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), donated eight of its fleet vehicles and one forklift to help DPSCD students learn the skills needed to succeed in the auto service field now and in the future.

Our strong relationship with DPSCD through initiatives like Connected Futures, which we co-lead with the district, helped us connect with Breithaupt Career Technical Center to address the need for a variety of vehicles – and the technology inside them – to prepare students to lead the auto service field forward. This was a natural expansion of our partnership with Breithaupt as we’ve supported the school since its transformation project began in 2017. We provided critical project management and construction management assistance for curriculum enhancement, modernizing classroom and facility infrastructure, and major capital improvements to beautify and transform the school; the DTE Energy Foundation also jumped in to help by awarding a $500,000 grant to fund updates.   

Prior to our fleet-vehicle donation, Breithaupt’s automotive curriculum had been using the same cars for classes for several years, and instructors and administrators expressed a need for new vehicles to keep up with automotive trends, and most importantly, to prepare students to hit the ground running after graduation.

We evaluated our fleet vehicles, which would normally be sent to auction, to determine which cars and technologies could help. Then, Breithaupt instructors came to our facilities and identified training vehicles – ranging from internal combustion to hybrid and electric cars – that would be helpful for the vehicle repair program, and one for the driver education program. We formally handed the keys over during a ceremony on June 4; students will be able to start using these cars in the upcoming fall 2021 semester.

“As an organization with deep roots in skilled trades professions, we value the rich history of teaching our future leaders about advancing their careers and entrepreneurial pursuits through the trades,” said Amy Joyce, director of fleet services. “These newer vehicles enable our partners at Breithaupt to deliver tangible, relevant training vehicles that will dominate our future transportation sector.”