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Ballmer Group grant expands employment opportunities for young adults in Pontiac


A $300,000 grant from Ballmer Group to the Talent Development Coalition Construction Pre-Apprentice Program is lighting the path to a financially secure future for Pontiac school graduates and young-adult residents in the city and surrounding area as they prepare for employment in the construction trades.
Created in 2019 by Oakland University Professor David Strubler, Ph.D., in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, Oakland County Michigan Works! Pontiac and Pontiac Promise Zone, the training program is part of the Oakland University Pontiac Initiative. During the 12-week program, participants receive wages and tuition expenses as they learn construction skills in a hands-on environment. The program acts as a bridge into the construction trades for employment and further apprentice training.
The Talent Development Coalition Construction Pre-Apprentice Program is intended to create a physical and psychological model to help people explore career interests, while receiving valuable practical training, an apprenticeship and, ultimately, a career that will lead to a myriad of job opportunities in the high-demand construction field.
The workforce development program aligns with a global movement to bring renewed appreciation to the skilled trades and promote career opportunities for the 60 percent of young people in Michigan who do not attend college. The program benefits from many dedicated partners, including 12 employers who hire graduates.
The generous grant from Ballmer Group will fund the training program for three consecutive years to an expanded group of participants, who are students in OU’s continuing education program. The funds will help pay tuition and provide materials the students will need as they start their careers.
Funding will also provide for an additional supervisor who will offer training to participants at the Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County construction site. Adding this extra supervisor will allow an impactful student to supervisor ratio of 5 to 1, ensuring that students receive an excellent training experience and improving the overall graduation rate of the program.
Dr. Strubler is a professor in OU’s department of organizational leadership and the visionary behind the Talent Development Coalition Construction Pre-Apprentice Program. He is grateful to Ballmer Group for their generous investment in the program and for their longstanding commitment to the Pontiac community.
“With the support from Ballmer Group, we expect to graduate 72 expertly trained students during the next three years,” Strubler said. “These students, ranging in age from 18-24, will have valuable stackable skills and credentials that will lead to well-paying positions and lifelong opportunities for advancement.”
Looking ahead, Strubler acknowledges that the impact of this grant will reach well beyond the three-year funding period.
“Experts predict there will be 811,000 open skilled trade jobs in Michigan by 2026,” he said. “Currently, only 25,000 people are enrolled in apprenticeship programs, signaling that immediate intervention is needed to close the gap in this important field. Support from Ballmer Group offers a life-changing solution for young adults looking for rewarding, lucrative careers and helps fill a widening need in our state’s construction industry.”
Ballmer Group is committed to improving economic opportunities for residents in southeast Michigan.
“A stable job is at the heart of improving economic opportunity, and workforce development programs pave the way for young people to smoothly transition from school into a career,” said Kylee Mitchell Wells, executive director, Ballmer Group – Southeast Michigan. “Oakland University’s unique program and partnerships with regional employers set their students up for success, helping to ensure that they are being trained for good jobs now and in the future. Ballmer Group is committed to working with partners like Oakland University throughout southeast Michigan to build more seamless pathways from education to employment.”
To learn more about the Talent Development Coalition Construction Pre-Apprentice Program and other important activities taking place through the OU-Pontiac Initiative, contact Teresa Rodges, senior director of pre-college programs and community partnerships, at

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