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DTE Energy, Department Of Corrections Launch Tree Trimming Training Program For Inmates

"We need to give them a chance to get some skills and become employed."

July 09, 2019 - 5:03 pm

(WWJ) -- DTE Energy is teaming up with the Michigan Department of Corrections to train former inmates eligible for parole to become tree trimmers.

DTE Executive Chairman Gerry Anderson says the program will help the company fill needed jobs, and keep formerly incarcerated people from returning to prison.

"We’ve got people who made a mistake at some point in their life, but if they’re going to reenter society, we need to give them a chance to get some skills, become employed and re-enter with a job so that they have a chance to not get back on the merry-go-round to the correctional facility," Anderson told WWJ.

DTE says the program, which launched with the first class of 24 tree trimmers on June 10, will teach students to safely climb trees, use tree trimming equipment and obtain a Commercial Driver's License. Once released on parole, the students who have completed the program in the MDOC's Vocational Village at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson will be eligible to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 17 Union and fill an open role with a local tree trim supplier.

Anderson says DTE is always in need of more tree trimmers.

"We have 1,300 tree trimmers today and we need 300 more," Anderson said. "And we’re struggling to find people to enter the program and we’re going to train up people at Parnall that I’m convinced are going to be good, contributing team members. And I can tell you I met them today. And there’s eagerness in their eyes and there’s thankfulness for the opportunity that they’re being afforded."

The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is 60% -- 15 times higher than the overall jobless rate in Michigan. And those people who can't find a job are 1/3 more likely to commit another crime and wind up back in prison, according to Anderson. But he says the recidivism rate for those individuals who are employed is only 2%.

Anderson says 6-8 months of training will get inmates ready to enter either the DTE workforce or other companies who are suppliers to DTE. 

"And then eventually if they want to, continue to build their skillset to become line men, which would provide a great future and a great income for these folks to try to return to society."