Skilled trades training highlighted

Alex Doty • Feb 15, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2017 fiscal year state budget includes funding for skilled worker training — a prospect that excites those with a finger on the pulse of the manufacturing industry.

“In West Michigan, we make stuff,” said David Miller, vice president of economic development for the Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce. “We need people who work with their hands.”

This will be the fourth year that the state has provided funding for skilled worker training, Miller said.

The governor’s budget includes more than $35 million for skilled trades training-related initiatives, such as the Skilled Trades Training Fund and the Michigan Advanced Technician Training program.

“This particular skilled trades funding flows through the Michigan Works agency,” Miller explained. “For the first two years, Ottawa County led the state in the amount of skilled training funds awarded.”

While the initial funding has been good for the county, it was a bit different last year due to a change with the Michigan Works program.

“Last year, it was a bit of an up-and-down period for Ottawa County,” Miller said.

The Ottawa County Michigan Works program was regrouped with six other counties to create the West Michigan Works agency, meaning funding now goes to this agency and is distributed among area training providers.

“It will go through Michigan Works, but most of that (funding) goes to the training providers,” Miller said. 

Despite this change, Miller said funding is still very valuable to skilled workforce development at a time when manufacturers are seeing a demand for skilled labor.

”Talent is the No. 1 issue,” he said. “How do we get people into the skilled trades?”

Part of the goal is to change the narrative amongst educators about skilled trades. Miller said it should be emphasized that there are well-paying jobs that people can head into by going the route of a trade or apprenticeship.

“That’s going to be a long process,” he said. “(But) every opportunity we can get to reinforce this truth is helpful.”

Other highlights of the governor’s skilled trades funding includes:

— One-time funding of $8.8 million for the Statewide Data System Integration project. The project will encourage continuous improvement in the services provided to employers, workers and all taxpayers. In addition to helping the state meet new workforce data reporting requirements, the project will allow for a more detailed analysis of training and education programs. Through an analysis of this data, program design and outcomes will be improved.

— $9.8 million in General Fund support for the Community Ventures program, which helps structurally unemployed residents pursue career opportunities and maintain employment in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Pontiac. An additional $2 million, one-time General Fund commitment also is being recommended as a “challenge” match to encourage foundations and other organizations to support expansion of program services and integration into communities.

State Talent Investment Agency Director Stephanie Comai said the funding proposals ensure Michigan is well-positioned to address workforce development issues. She also noted that the state is taking a comprehensive, strategic approach to talent development.

“Michigan’s long-term success depends on our ability to ensure that job providers have access to the talent they need,” Comai said. “This is especially true in the skilled trades, where thousands of exciting, good-paying jobs remain available. I’m proud of the work my agency is doing to assist workers and employers in meeting their needs, and am confident that the governor’s continued emphasis will allow us to keep our state at the forefront of talent development innovation. 

”With the continued support of the governor and Legislature, the Talent Investment Agency will keep working with stakeholders throughout Michigan to make our state a national leader in preparing talent for the rewarding careers of today and tomorrow,“ she added.

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