Friday, March 30, 2012

Program Officer, Detroit Regional Workforce Fund

Kylee Mitchell
Program Officer, Detroit Regional Workforce Fund

Our region is struggling with a myriad of issues -- employment is just one of them. As a native Detroiter, I wanted to be a part of the solution to this problem. But I didn’t start out in this direction.

I actually began my career in corporate finance balancing budgets for Fortune 500 firms.  But my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to do something that impacted others and made a real difference in the community. In 2009, I was pursuing a graduate degree in New York City as a National Urban Fellow ( My graduate experience coupled with an opportunity to lead and implement a financial services program in Washington, D.C. for the district’s mayor, solidified my passion. Basically, I connected residents with mainstream financial service products and helped combat the usage of payday lending and other predatory financial options that impair individuals’ personal financial positions.

 Eventually, my journey to two world-class cities, New York and Washington, D.C. fostered my desire to return home and become an integral part to Detroit’s revitalization. At the time, colleagues, friends and even some family members thought that it unwise to leave a job for Detroit. Given the economic landscape of the time, I understood their concerns. Despite the naysayers, I was determined to come home – jobless.

I dealt with all of the emotional stress that comes with the job-seeking process. And I didn’t just want to find a job; I wanted a profession that I was passionate about. Shortly after my move, I came to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, serving as the program officer for the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund (DRWF) ( The DRWF supports and cultivates workforce partnerships that will help metro-Detroit residents secure employment and provide financially sustaining wages while meeting the employers’ workforce needs. 

With the assistance of the Department of Labor, the DRWF has been able to support Detroiter’s Working for Environmental Justice’s (, Green Jobs Training program, a brownfield remediation training program for local residents. Additionally, the DRWF has invested in the long-term healthcare and hospitality sectors both of which offer professional development and career pathways and ladders for program participants. The DRWF is on a mission to systematically change the workforce woes in our region by clearly understanding the needs of employers in emerging sectors.

The DRWF is a part of the “Earn It” strategy of United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Financial Stability Team ( “Earn It” focuses on getting individuals into jobs with upward earning potential, and careers in growing industries

My days of understanding the bottom line in corporate finance are long gone. Now I am thrilled to support a team that helps individuals understand their financial bottom line and knowing that it all begins with securing a career.

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