Addressing Educational and Technological Divides in our workforce

City of Detroit
San Jose State University



Education, Equity, Process Improvement

Procurement Method:

University Partner:

San Jose State University

Partnership Description

The City of Detroit Office of Talent Development and Performance Management will be working with Kathleen McConnell, Professor of Communication Studies, at San Jose State University to prototype career technical education models tailored to the City of Detroit workforce. The CTE curriculum will aim to create a pipeline of internal talent and a more equitable system for city employees to access resources and opportunities for professional development. It will build upon the office's work as an accredited training and development provider. This work is part of larger research Professor McConnell conducts in revitalizing civic traditions within vocational and career technical education. Read more about Professor McConnell’s work here:


The City of Detroit is seeking a learning and professional development framework solution to enhance the intellectual and financial lives of city employees to ultimately improve service delivery for our employees and residents.



The City of Detroit has 9,000 employees. When the city filed for bankruptcy in 2011, there was a period of six to eight years where no professional development or performance support was provided to help drive skills for city employees. As the city exited bankruptcy and began to restructure, in an effort to source highly-skilled employees, leadership positions were populated by external employees, including those not a part of or located in the City of Detroit. This resulted in a limited number of promotions for existing city employees and further constrained the opportunities available to city residents. 

To reduce the skill gap, we need to invest in growing internal talent so that we can have the intellectual capital to drive change and move the city forward. We need to create a more equitable system so that all city employees are able to access resources and opportunities for professional development. By creating a pipeline of internal talent, the city can minimize its over-reliance on external contractors which would result in substantial savings.

By relying on external talent, we have a divided workforce that has no shared experiences in moving through the much needed organizational transformation. Embracing the opportunity to create a shared culture and drive value, the city should leverage external skills and internal know-how and historical knowledge to create a highly-skilled workforce which would result in an increase in the number of internal promotional and leadership opportunities. 

Who are the stakeholders

  • city employees
  • residents
  • next-generation talent pipeline (internal v external)

How does this problem affect stakeholders 

The existing inefficiencies and lack of frameworks results in a need for more external staff which drives up cost. If we can shape highly-skilled employees we can maximize capacity which would lower costs to run city and benefit all residents. Our budget is reliant on revenue generated through taxes. If we have to spend twice as much for external talent, we will always have a deficit. The inability to effectively manage the talent budget and reduce talent expenditures may result in external financial management and the inability to make independent decisions. Talent development and talent management efficiencies will help reduce overall cost and help to eliminate negative budget implications and shortfalls. 

Previous Efforts  

The City of Detroit's Office of Talent Development is an International Accreditation Continued Education accredited training and development provider. Employees earn continuous education units for the completion of courses designed, developed and facilitated by the Office of Talent Development and Performance Management.  

The City of Detroit holds strategic partnership agreements with 17 colleges and universities. Our partnership agreements provide tuition discounts ranging between 10-50% for employees and their immediate family members. Additionally, our collegiate partners provide free professional development workshops, informational sessions, and participate in an annual Education Fair. 

The city also has the Public Administration Academy (PAA), where we visit local middle schools and high schools and talk about the different careers available in city government. The program includes a mock city council meeting where students receive a budget and create a project. The students who complete the process, get priority for admission to the Summer Job Program in the city which provides pathways for youth to get government and professional experience. We believe in building a connection with our youth that extends beyond our organization's reach.

Resources for Academic Teams

The research team will be able to access following resources:

  • Chief Learning Officer, The Office of Talent Development and Performance Management
  • Chief Operating Officer, Mayor's Office 
  • Finance Department
  • Human Resources Director
  • Existing metrics and data
  • Reports on previous efforts 


Requirements & Outcomes


The City of Detroit is seeking to: 

  • learn and understand how to empower our city employees and residents with resources that improve equity, access, and opportunity in the learning and development space
  • seeking to impact the lives of city employees and residents through learning and development 
  • bring value to our employees and residents by creating a highly-skilled workforce 
    • broaden and build interpersonal and technical skills
    • understand how educating employees internally creates external impact
  • understand and create a systemic and systematic process that will make current efforts self-sustainable and drive continuous improvement and innovation
  • create solutions that improve the city as a municipal government and which positively impact the personal lives of employees
  • understand how to maximize capacity and resources

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