Fiat Chrysler has 5,000 jobs to offer Detroiters at the new Jeep assembly plant it's building on the city's east side. So far, 38,000 job seekers have expressed interest in the positions, and another 10,000 are expected to do so before the hiring process closes.

What happens to the 43,000 who don't land the FCA jobs?

They'll form the largest talent pool in the country to be ready to fill positions when FCA suppliers and other employers come in search of workers.

The city's Detroit at Work office doesn't want to lose track of city residents who are willing to work. It's compiling a database of the FCA hopefuls, analysing their skill levels and steering them toward programs that will improve their chances of landing a job with the automaker, and if they don't, to be ready to sign on somewhere else.

"There are absolutely enough jobs in Detroit to employ all of them," says Cindy Pasky, president and chief executive of Strategic Staffing Solutions and vice-chairman of the city's workforce development board.

The board realized early on that FCA, which held 300 job fairs around the city, would be flooded by applicants. And they saw the opportunity.

The board says Detroit has a willing workforce, but many city residents aren't ready to navigate the job hunting journey. Knowing who is out there looking for work, and what skills they need to find it, will give the city a leg up on meeting the needs of employers.

Of the 38,000 who expressed interest in the Chrysler positions, one-third have jobs, one-third have been employed in the past, and one-third have never worked or worked very little, says Nicole Sherard-Freeman, executive director of the mayor's office of workforce development.

To prepare the inexperienced seekers for the application process, the office is holding two-week training courses on, among other things, how to succeed in a job interview and mastering the math and mechanical reasoning test FCA requires. Thousands have signed up.

Not everyone will make the cut with FCA. But another 2,500 supplier jobs are anticipated, and Pasky says other employers are on the hunt of workers.

"For the first time, we'll have a pool of workers that will allow us to match the talent to the job opportunities," she says. "We want to teach them to be work ready when those opportunities come. Employers are already calling us looking for access to our talent pool."

The office is working with the University of Michigan to analyze the current job openings in Detroit and the skills required to fill them. 

Detroit at Work is a key piece of the Duggan administration's poverty fighting efforts. "We're not just helping people get a first job," Sherard-Freeman says. "We also are helping them find a career path. The first job may not lift them out of poverty, but as their skills and experience increase, the second and third jobs will."

The office has reviewed 12,600 of the 38,000 interested in FCA jobs, and found roughly half are ready to become viable applicants. Too many who want a job don't know how to look for one.  

"That's a barrier we hadn't though much about before," Sherard-Freeman says. "But it has to be torn down." 

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

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