This GM photo shows a Volt being assembled. GM North America President Mark Reuss, who announced the donation, said the investment is vital to being able to produce such innovative vehicles in the future.

GM Foundation Invests $27 Million in Future Workforce

As the donation was announced Dec. 10, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said unemployment was 13.3 percent in October in Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich., the second-highest rate in the Midwest census region.

Bidding to increase graduation rates and ultimately rebuild metropolitan Detroit's skilled workforce, the General Motors Foundation will donate $27.1 million to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan to create Networks of Excellence from five existing high schools where graduation rates are low.

This is the largest donation in the foundation's 34-year history, according to GM, which said the dropout rate in parts of metro Detroit where the most manufacturing jobs have been lost is near 50 percent. At the same time the donation was announced Dec. 10, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said unemployment was 13.3 percent in October in Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich., which was the second-highest rate in the Midwest census region.

"The students we are trying to reach are the future," said GM North America President and GM Foundation Board member Mark Reuss, who announced the donation at Cody High School in Detroit. He said the foundation "can make a difference, and helping create Networks of Excellence is a proven way to do it."

The network will be the second administered by the United Way in Detroit and its suburbs. It will choose five high schools from which to create as many as 20 academies and will create five Early Learning Communities to help get young children ready for kindergarten. Twenty-two high schools are eligible to apply for the network, with their applications due this week, The Detroit News reported. It quoted Reuss as saying, "Clearly, we need to be better [at graduating students]. Vehicles like the Volt will never happen again if we don't take care of this."

The first Network of Excellence began with five schools in 2008. After the first year, 83 percent of the students at the turnaround schools are on track to graduate, up from a low of 65 percent, according to the United Way.

"The goal is audacious," said Michael J. Brennan, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. "We want to transform Southeast Michigan into the home of one the top five most skilled and educated workforces in the nation. Our measurement is 80 percent or greater readiness for kindergarten and high school graduation, where the norm in at least five key communities is 50 percent."

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