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Michigan Reconnect Letter to Legislature

Michigan businesses are dealing with a severe talent shortage. Our economy is strong and across the state there are jobs to fill. Michigan is home to a large pool of hard-working, able-bodied men and women ready and willing to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow. But first they need the proper training and education. The Michigan Reconnect proposal (SB 268 [Horn], HB 4456 [Frederick]) is a large scale response to this urgent need.

Earlier this year, Governor Whitmer put forward a plan to address state’s growing skills gap in the form of the Reconnect and MI Opportunity Scholarship programs. Our organizations remain fully supportive of these initiatives. However, in the interest of beginning the hard work of filling the skills gap, we ask that you consider implementing Reconnect now as part of the 2019-2020 budget.

Specifically, Reconnect provides Michiganders who are at least 25 years of age and have not earned a college degree “last dollar” support to obtain an Associate’s Degree or Occupational Certificate. It provides Michiganders everywhere a chance to “upskill” and enhance their career prospects while also growing the pool of skilled labor that employers are desperate to access. Community Colleges and students would be held to a rigorous set of accountability standards in order to continue receiving financial support.

Reconnect will have an enormous and immediate impact on both employers and employees which is exactly what our state needs. Since 2010, most jobs added to our nation’s economy have gone to workers with at least some post high school attainment. Michigan needs 175,000 new university graduates, and 126,000 new certificate/associate graduates by 2020. And demand for a skilled workforce will only increase in the future.  It is time to get aggressive in addressing our state’s skills gap.

We are well aware that there are many important needs competing for state budget dollars, but no other program will address the state’s talent shortage as quickly and effectively as Reconnect. We believe it is critical that action be taken this fall to move to get the Michigan Reconnect grant program up and running as soon as possible.

This is an opportunity to have a substantial and positive impact on the economy without having a large impact on the budget. Reconnect can be fully funded for a year and a half by simply allocating dollars from within Michigan’s Marshall Plan for Talent that are meant for community colleges anyway.

We, as representatives of the Michigan’s business community, are asking for you to make passage of Reconnect legislation a priority this fall including its insertion into the 2019-2020 budget. We believe it is the right path forward for our state’s workers and employers, and hope you feel the same way.

Sincerely,