DTE has partnered with the Michigan Department of Corrections to develop and launch a program to train returning citizens for careers in tree trimming, helping to fill open, in-demand positions.
“I’ve learned from my peers – both in Michigan and in other states – that returning citizens who are looking for a second chance in life can be among your very best and most loyal employees. They just need to be given a chance. A criminal record shouldn’t be a life sentence of unemployment,” said Gerry Anderson, DTE executive chairman.
The first class of 24 tree trimmers began on June 10, and they will finish in the next 6-9 months. Within the program, students will learn to safely climb trees, use tree trim equipment and obtain a Commercial Driver’s License.
DTE Energy depends on 1,300 skilled tree trimmers to keep trees away from power lines, but Michigan continues to face a critical shortage of qualified people. At the same time, people coming out of prison have an unemployment rate of 60 percent – more than 15 times the overall state rate – and without stable employment roughly one-third will reoffend.
“We have an opportunity here to make Michigan an example for the country and set a nationwide standard for criminal justice reform,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I’m proud to partner with DTE Energy as we take a new approach to preparing inmates for successful lives after incarceration by creating the nation’s first vocational tree trim program. This skilled trades program will improve outcomes of the folks going through our criminal justice system, save taxpayer dollars on recidivism, and make our communities safer.”
Once released on parole, the students who have completed the tree trim program in the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC)’s Vocational Village at Parnall Correctional Facility will be eligible to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 17 Union and fill an open role with a local tree trim supplier.
“We are excited to bring this program to Parnall’s Vocational Village with DTE to give our participating prisoners more career options upon their release,” said Heidi Washington, MDOC director. “If we equip them with skills and point them in the right direction, they will be much more successful in supporting themselves and their families, and much less likely to re-enter the criminal justice system.”
The DTE Energy Foundation has provided the initial grant of $100,000 to create the program and purchase training equipment for the learning lab. DTE worked closely with IBEW Local 17 to design and install a climbing structure and training curriculum for the program.