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Mayor Mike Duggan knows a strong workforce is essential to Detroit’s revival. And Friday, he’s making public a major overhaul of the city’s approach to workforce development.

Duggan, along with his new workforce team, will hold their first official meeting at the Detroit Athletic Club, and he’ll be joined by some of the top business leaders in the region who have helped the mayor craft these changes.

“It’s a huge part of the comeback of the city,” said Thomas Lewand, who heads jobs and economic growth in the Duggan administration.

The city board that oversees workforce efforts has undergone a complete transformation in leadership. The mayor’s Workforce Development Board is now comprised of 21 CEOs from Metro Detroit, along with foundation, education and labor leaders. The board is charged with setting the city’s policies on job development.

The mayor also will announce the hiring of a director of workforce development — a new position at City Hall. Jeff Donofrio, a Michigan native who has spent the last five years as the government affairs manager for Ford Motor Co., started his new post this week. Donofrio previously ran the offices of Michigan Congressmen John Dingell and Sandy Levin and served as the transportation adviser for Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Cynthia Pasky, president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions, and Dave Meador, vice chairman and chief administrative officer of DTE Energy, will serve as co-chairs of the workforce board, and they, along with Duggan, were integral in recruiting the other business leaders.

“We ended up with this extraordinary group of people,” Lewand said. “It’s an unbelievable story. That’s the kind of community leadership we have.”

Getting this kind of commitment from the business community is what sets the new board apart, Pasky said.

“There is nothing that looks like this anywhere,” Pasky said. “We got CEOs to come to the table, and say yes, we want to engage. We believe strongly that if you are going to have good workforce development, you have to begin where the jobs are.”

Other CEOs include Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas division for Ford; Joe Mullany, president and CEO of the Detroit Medical Center; Matt Cullen, president and CEO of Rock Ventures LLC.; and Andra Rush, CEO of Detroit Manufacturing Systems.

The board will also offer more direct oversight of the Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., the nonprofit administrative agent for city workforce services. Laura Hughes, vice president of communications and community at Strategic Staffing Solutions, will serve as the new chairwoman of the corporation.

In addition, the board will focus on streamlining workforce development efforts in the city. Currently, there are 300 different workforce providers in Detroit.

The board also wants to tackle ways to find work for the hardest to employ — including those who are returning from prison.

Pasky and Lewand visited the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Maryland, which provides effective job training to inmates so that that they can walk into a job after they are released. John Hopkins, in Baltimore, has made a strong commitment to hiring returning citizens, and Detroit would like to replicate the program.

“We need to put 100,000 Detroiters to work and we need to start getting that done with jobs that already exist,” Pasky said.

Pasky said there is not a specific plan yet for hiring and training, but she’s confident that will come in time.

“When you’ve got the caliber and the capability and influence of this organization, shame on us when we come up with good ideas and we can’t find a way to get it done,” she said.

Donofrio said he’s ready to hit the ground running, and said he’s had a lot of experience dealing with workforce development. A rising executive at Ford, Donofrio got the blessing of the company to take a career detour to help Detroit.

The stakes are high. Duggan’s efforts to revitalize the city won’t be sustainable, if Detroiters aren’t working.

“What scares me is losing a generation here,” Donofrio said. “We have to make sure that we provide those opportunities to the people who live here so they can be part of the success — they can become part of the renaissance.”

ijacques@detroitnews.com

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