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Creating Diversity Through Workforce Readiness Workshops

DTE Energy leveraged Talent Pipeline Management® strategies to identify and address talent gaps in their company and industry.

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We’ve given participants the skills to pass our assessments, but they can also use that knowledge when applying to other companies, said DTE Manager of Workforce Development, Deborah Majeski. In the end, we’re increasing the diversity of our workforce through a collaborative effort with our internal and external partners. This not only helps our company, but also the local economy.


of participants successfully completed the program

The Challenge

DTE Energy, a Detroit-based energy company, faces an ongoing need for talent across various business units. They continually hire for a wide range of positions such as customer service specialists, overhead line workers, and field service representatives (TPM Strategy 1: Organize for Employer Leadership and Collaboration outlines how employers identify critical jobs to focus their talent strategy efforts). DTE’s customer base has become increasingly diverse, and the company has been committed for over a decade to employing more people of color and women in jobs traditionally held by white men.  

DTE found a high percentage of potential job candidates could not pass qualifying tests for specific jobs. For those candidates that did have the inherent capabilities to fill these essential roles, too often they would interview poorly and be rejected. This challenge has not been limited to those from historically marginalized groups. According to the Center for Energy Workforce Development, nationwide, pre-employment tests typically result in a 50% passage rate. 

The Solution

Instead of trying merely to broaden the pool of non-traditional applicants, DTE began coaching potential new hires to increase their chances of filling important jobs for the utility company (TPM Strategy 5: Build Talent Supply Chains encourages employers and providers to co-design talent pipeline solutions based on employer data).

Leveraging the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) framework, DTE Manager of Workforce Development, Deborah Majeski—who is TPM Academy® graduate—Manager of Employment Strategies Alicia Harris, and their teams have built “Readiness Workshops” in partnership with internal business units at DTE. These workshops prepare underrepresented groups of job candidates—such as people of color, women, veterans, and people with disabilities—for what they need to succeed in DTE’s hiring process (TPM Strategy 3: Align and Communicate Job Requirements encourages employers to thoroughly analyze and effectively communicate their hiring requirements). The workshops are designed to create a pipeline of qualified candidates, while strengthening the diverse communities the utility serves. In the process, DTE reduces its costly investments of time and resources in testing and interviewing job candidates who fail to get through the hiring process.

The workshop curriculum prepares participants for tests and interviews that have traditionally been the main points of failure for many applicants. DTE’s HR team created workshops for different jobs, such as overhead electric line worker, electric meter installers, and residential service representatives. Each program was designed to prepare about 30 participants to pass specific job-related exams, such as the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Construction and Skilled Trades (CAST) test for overhead electric line workers, or the EEI Technician Occupations Selection System (TECH) test for service planning representatives, as well as coaching for interviewing skills.

DTE Energy Female Workers

Recruiting Key Talent for Workshops

Once the workshops were created, one of the first challenges that DTE faced was recruiting participants and ensuring potential candidates recognized the value in their involvement. DTE’s approach relied on the nature and geographic location of specific jobs. Jobs like service planning representatives were available in DTE Service Centers throughout southeast Michigan. So Majeski, Harris, and their teams developed partnerships with community colleges and local agencies to recruit in regions where candidates were most needed (TPM Strategy 4: Analyze Talent Supply includes processes to better understand talent flows such as existing talent sources and student demographics).

In coordination with HR’s efforts, DTE deployed targeted outreach. Messaging about the position was delivered by current DTE employees who shared the same demographics as the position’s priority talent pool. These tactics were very successful and brought in more candidates than seats available in the classes.

Informational sessions with potential participants provided an opportunity for DTE’s team to understand if they were interested enough to take a 32-hour workshop over several weeks. Those who expressed interest and met basic requirements, such as a high school diploma and a valid driver’s license, were given a timed quiz to demonstrate a ninth-grade level in math and reading. Those who passed were placed in a pool of qualified candidates and 30 were invited to participate in the free Pre-Candidate Readiness Workshop to prepare for the application process in a particular job. Those who did not pass the assessment were provided resources to receive remediation services through community colleges and local workforce service centers.

Partnering with Education Institutions to Deliver Readiness Workshops

DTE partnered with Henry Ford College to deliver the workshops virtually, which was particularly helpful during the pandemic to expand its reach to more people across the state. The workshop sessions were three to four hours in the evenings over three to five weeks, and attendance was mandatory.

Workshops had several components. For example, the residential service representative workshop included job requirements information, customer service problem-solving training, and detailed instruction to prepare for the EEI TECH test, which is required for many utility jobs. They were also coached on how to prepare for a DTE job interview.

Outcomes: Preparing a More Diverse Applicant Pool

During 2020 and 2021, 840 people expressed interest in the DTE workshops and ultimately 200 people participated in eight workshops. Impressively, 76% of participants completed the program and 63% passed the DTE assessments, significantly improved outcomes when compared with candidates who do not participate in the workshops. Those who were successful in the application process were offered jobs or were qualified to be hired by DTE in the future. The assessments, once passed, are good for life for other jobs in the company.

Preparing Readiness Workshops for the Future

DTE is currently developing three workshops for the remainder of 2022, including a customer service workshop for people with disabilities. Other programs in development include gas operations and appliance repairs, which is a skill set that requires years of experience. The goal is to find more diverse talent across the state in these hard-to-fill roles, and to expand the use of workshops throughout the company. To facilitate this, Majeski’s team developed a Work Readiness Workshop Playbook to create a repeatable process that enhances targeted outreach. After each workshop, the DTE team completes “After Action Reviews” to capture lessons learned that could be incorporated into future programs (TPM Strategy 6: Engage in Continuous Improvement and Resiliency Planning promotes a systematic process for identifying, evaluating, and deploying solutions where there is insufficient performance).

Can This Process Be Replicated?

DTE has created a replicable process to create a pool of qualified job candidates. Although, some who completed the program were not immediately hired, if an opening comes up in a related field, participants can immediately apply, knowing they have already passed relevant exams, such as CAST. As hiring plans for business units become clearer each year, DTE’s team will offer workshops for whichever jobs are deemed most critical and important to fill with more diverse talent.

By helping potential candidates successfully navigate DTE’s application process, the utility is also strengthening the communities it serves. Brandon Boyte, workshop participant and now an apprentice lineman said of the experience, “The workshop helped me prepare for the CAST test. It gave me a clear outline of what would be on the test and therefore be prepared and able to pass.”


This case study was written by Dr. David DeLong of Smart Workforce Strategies. Learn more about DTE Energy.


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