COO Sheryl Sandberg announces partnership during Detroit visit
Facebook will fund the training of 3,000 Michigan workers for jobs in digital marketing over the next two years, the social media giant’s COO Sheryl Sandberg announced Thursday during a visit to Detroit.
Grand Circus, a computer coding training firm that’s part of Dan Gilbert’s family of companies, will offer the 10-week training courses in Detroit and Grand Rapids in partnership with Facebook.
Sandberg told Crain’s that the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company’s funding of the training is designed to help fill a growing shortage of computer coding jobs and develop talent for a future possible expansion into Michigan.
“Auto is a very important industry for us,” Sandberg said in a interview with Crain’s. “This is a growing part of our business and we’re hoping we can expand here because our business will demand it.”
The training courses at Grand Circus’ offices in the David Broderick Tower next to Grand Circus Park will begin in the fall, said Damien Rocchi, co-founder and CEO of Grand Circus.
“Facebook’s intention is to do this nationally, but this has been launched here (first),” Rocchi told Crain’s. “I think it’s an endorsement for the tech community that we’ve built here and the sort of traction we’ve been getting in Detroit over the last five or six years.”
Grand Circus is about to graduate its 50th class of coders this summer and said it has 650 graduates working in 120 companies across the state.
Ellen Zimmer, 55, went through Grand Circus’ 10-week training last fall for front-end website development and landed a job at Quicken Loans Inc. in February as a software project manager — after spending 10 years out of the workforce.
“It enabled me to form a network so I knew who was hiring, what kind of skills they were looking,” said Zimmer, who had a previous career in early internet marketing at at the former Ameritech Corp. “It brought me up to current.”
During an announcement speech, Sandberg highlighted Zimmer’s story as “an example” of how training experienced workers in new skills can help get in-demand tech jobs.
“The world changed an awful lot in those 10 years you were out of the workplace,” Sandberg said to Zimmer. “But it didn’t matter because what Ellen needed — she had the core skills — she needed an opportunity to learn and she got that here.”
Sandberg said Facebook will work closely with Grand Circus on training Michigan workers in the areas where Facebook and other companies need help.
“When we can find a great local partner like this that we can partner with to help provide the training people need and we can bring them what we know, it’s just a great opportunity for us to develop people who will go to do great work with Facebook and other local companies,” she said.
Facebook is adding emphasis on getting Grand Circus to train women and racial minorities for jobs in digital and social media marketing, Sandberg said.
“We want to develop diverse talent,” she said. “And we want to make sure that we can get the talent that we need. And some of these people go on to work for other companies — that’s great.”
Facebook operates a small sales office in Birmingham and Sandberg did not rule out a future expansion of the technical end of website’s business in Michigan. “We always start with sales offices,” she said.
Gov. Rick Snyder praised Facebook’s job training initiative.
“This commitment Facebook is making to Michigan shows their confidence in the state and its residents,” Snyder said Thursday in a statement. “Convergence between the tech and manufacturing sectors is becoming more prominent throughout Michigan and the world, making this type of partnership between employers and education to grow the professional trades more important than ever before.”
Sandberg visited Grand Circus’ offices Thursday morning and had a private meeting with Gilbert before announcing the job training initiative with Rocchi before a crowd of Grand Circus graduates, many of whom land jobs down Woodward Avenue at Gilbert’s Quicken Loans.
In her one-day visit to Detroit, Sandberg went from Grand Circus to General Motors Co.’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant to get a tour with GM CEO Mary Barra.
Before the tour, Sandberg and Barra talked about the convergence of automobiles and computer technology in a Facebook Live video recorded at the assembly plant Barra once ran as general manager.
“I think the fact that you’re giving them that core skill of coding, which is going to be necessary in every industry, is just so important,” Barra said of Facebook’s job training initiative.
Sandberg later planned to speak at Facebook’s fifth annual automotive summit at the Garden Theater in Midtown. The summit focuses on the social media company’s automotive marketing business.
Sandberg’s tour of a GM plant comes six weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made an unannounced visit to Southeast Michigan to tour Ford Motor Co.’s Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, where he said he “played a very small part” in assembling F-150 trucks.
The social media pioneer also dropped into Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery in Detroit’s Midtown and met with Muslim students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Sandberg said she didn’t know what Barra had in store for her tour of the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, where 1,580 hourly GM workers assemble the Chevrolet Impala and Volt, Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac CT6.
“I’m not sure Mary’s letting me build anything,” Sandberg joked.
Gilbert did not attend the job training announcement at Grand Circus and was not available for comment, a spokeswoman said.
Quicken Loans advertises on Facebook and is “a partner in several fashions,” Sandberg said.
“We discussed everything from basketball to the work he’s doing developing Detroit to Quicken Loans and how his business is going,” Sandberg said of her meeting with Gilbert.