“More than two months after the coronavirus pandemic hit Detroit, nearly half of all Detroit residents have lost their job.” – according to a new University of Michigan Detroit Metro Area Communities (DMACS) survey. That is double the Michigan unemployment rate and more than triple the national unemployment rate, according to the survey.

For Matrix Manufacturing Graduate Renaldo Burress – the effort and commitment he put in to complete the 6-week manufacturing education course at The Matrix Center last fall (2019) is now paying off, as he has been able to work during the pandemic at a manufacturing plant in Detroit. His employer also made sure to check everyone’s temperature before entering work to make sure no one was displaying symptoms of the disease, which Renaldo appreciated.

However, Renaldo Burress’s story started in the summer of 2019, when he was laid-off from his job at a plant in Saline, Michigan. Little did “Ron” know then the challenges that would lie ahead, but he chose to be determined and resilient, and that is how he found the life-lines he is now appreciating today.

Speaking at The Matrix Manufacturing Boot Camp Graduation on December 13th, Ron explained how he noticed his son watching him after being laid-off, to see how he would respond.

“Here growing up in Detroit, in the red-zone right here in one of the worst parts, it’s kinda de-motivational real fast, so I noticed him watching me. That brought me here.”

After seeing an ad on Facebook for a job fair at The Matrix Center, Ron decided to come by and check it out. After speaking to Career Coach Ron Norwood, he learned about The Matrix Manufacturing Boot Camp. At first Ron was hesitant about starting a 6-week course, requiring a few hours in the morning, 5 days a week, but he said he quickly saw signs around him that made him believe it was the right direction.

Making a decision to cancel his vacation, Ron started The Matrix Manufacturing Boot Camp in November and prepared himself to spend his weekday mornings at The Matrix Center learning about manufacturing, a career he had no experience in. Meanwhile, he was informing his son about the boot camp to keep him motivated.

“Being in this community, you got to make sure you pay attention to your kids and the kids watch more than you think. So he saw a lot of things I was doing right, and a lot of things I was doing wrong, so after that I just had to make sure like, ‘hey I’m about to go over to this boot camp, do you want to come?’ And he was like ‘well let me see you do it first.’ — After that I’m like OK I’m gonna go check it out… And you know I got a coat here, they gave me a coat, a tablet, help me get here and everything, and he was getting more intrigued, but just waiting to see if I would stick through it.”

After completing the six-week boot camp, Renaldo graduated alongside 9 other classmates. Half of the original class did not make it to graduation, showing the level of commitment and dedication it required. Speaking on the future, Renaldo said,

“He saw me go through it, and it happened real fast, like ‘oh my God graduation already’, he was so not ready but… you got to steer him in the right way. If you give up, that’s just showing him he can give up on a lot of stuff. So, I got a better career lined up for me.”

Little did Ron know then how much his hard work would pay off later.

Like everyone, Ron was suddenly dealing with Coronavirus in Detroit by March of 2020. Unfortunately, this resulted in the passing of his aunt and his best friend’s grandmother, but his spirit was not hindered. Prior to COVID-19, Ron’s family was more separated, but now they are communicating better and are closer than ever before. Ron has used this pandemic as stepping stone to better his health by eating better and take a more active part in raising his kids.

Ron was also actively seeking employment prior to the pandemic, but with The Manufacturing Boot Camp certification, he now has a full time position and is working even during the pandemic. He is very happy with his job  and appreciates how they even check everyone’s temperature before starting any shifts to make sure they are safe to work.

Currently, Ron does not have reliable transportation and would normally have to catch the bus, but the job is only a mile away from his home so he chooses to walk as a safety precaution. Ron is accepting his new way of life with open arms because prior to the Manufacturing Boot Camp, he was at a really low point in life and considers the program to have been his “life line”.

Watch Ron’s Graduation speech below.


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