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Detroit school gets $10M investment for career training

Detroit — Faith Fizer and her school have undergone a transformation together.

The cosmetology student at Breithaupt Career Tech Center said when she arrived three years ago, the hallways were cloaked in darkness. Equipment in the school’s salon was broken, outdated and even moldy.

That all changed this school year when the school, which provides career technical education for nearly 700 Detroit youth and adults, received a makeover with $10 million in improvements to its building, career technical programs and equipment.

“We have new, state-of-the-art bowls that are actually used in real salons, and these things are phenomenal and easy to use,” Fizer said on Thursday when city and education leaders unveiled the changes to the public.

“I am excited and happy to come here each day and work with those materials. Back then when we didn’t have these things, it was hard to know how to use things when they were broken.”

Improvements across the school include upgrades to the building, equipment and programs in career technical education for high school students and adults, officials said. Students here take classes during school hours and adult attended classes at nights and on weekends.

“Breithaupt is able to say we are back into the light,” said Fizer, who is graduating this spring from the school and is headed to Schoolcraft College. “It has opened up our eyes to see how far we can go.”

Officials said the investments have transformed Breithaupt into a modern, updated facility with better-equipped classrooms, more programs and teachers.

Breithaupt offers students training in the fields of culinary arts, retail and hospitality sectors, automotive service and collision repair, as well as mechatronics and welding. Officials say the technology-based, high-quality hands-on education expands students’ professional options and is a pathway to increased opportunity.

The investment is also part of building a talent pipeline to support Detroit’s economy, Mayor Mike Duggan said.

“The revitalization of Breithaupt is another great example of partnership between the city, Detroit Public Schools Community District, corporate and philanthropic investment and the skilled trades,” Duggan said. “There is still lots of demand from employers, and we need to help Detroiters find the skills to fill that demand.”

Updates and improvements touched every part of the building including updates to infrastructure and safety measures, revitalized classrooms and renovated common spaces.

New equipment included the donation of vehicles by GM and Ford, new welding equipment, cosmetology furniture, and a fully updated mechatronics lab.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, said the revitalization of Randolph Career Technical Center in 2017 was something that he knew would be replicated at other CTE schools.


Detroit Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti
Detroit Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti addresses attendees in front of a Chevy Malibu used by auto shop students to run diagnostics and learn automobile functions at the Breithaupt Career Technical Center in Detroit. (Photo: Todd McInturf, The Detroit News)


“Eighteen months later, we did it, and we are committed to work with the city and business to expand,” Vitti said. “There is nothing more important than expanding college and career readiness opportunities for our students. This is what the work is all about. In the near future, all of our schools will have this type of infrastructure to develop our city’s young talent and develop a homegrown workforce.”

Funding for the investments was led by Quicken Loans and Bedrock with contributions from General Motors, DTE Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Ballmer Group, Lear Corp., Penske Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Terry Rhadigan, executive director of corporate giving at GM, said the support automaker provided to Breithaupt is an investment in its hometown and its future workforce.

Rhadigan said there is a nationwide shortage of auto service technicians.

“Dealers would hire two to three more tech if they could find them,” Rhadigan said. “We’re proud to partner with the city and district on this crucial work to support skilled trades.”

City Councilwoman Janeé Ayers recalled coming to the center as a student where she had dinner or a manicure.

“This is how we build the Detroit we want to see,” Ayers said. “It’s not just about going to college. …You may be better with your hands.”

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This article originally appeared on The Detroit News website.