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It’s Working

By Jason Puscas

Investing in demand-driven training is paying dividends

As employers across the state can attest, today’s knowledge-based economy is driven by an unprecedented pace of technological advancement and disruption that make predicting the next innovation or emerging job market extremely difficult. It also creates challenges in fielding the highly trained, dynamic workforce needed to compete globally.

Under Gov. Rick Snyder’s leadership, Michigan has made strides to shift away from “supply based” training opportunities to a “demand based” approach which accommodates the constantly changing needs of the private sector and lets employers influence the direction of new and customizable training. This approach is succeeding but requires increased investment to further meet the workforce demands of our state and employers.

These past few months, the Chamber served as a leading advocate in the successful effort in Lansing to double the funding for Michigan’s Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) in the FY 2015-16 budget. This innovative program incentivizes incumbent worker training and includes provisions requiring results in new jobs, career advancement, and business growth.

Michigan would also benefit from a continued legislative focus on innovative ways to create pathways to exciting opportunities in the skilled trades and other in-demand fields. The Chamber has successfully advocated for funding increases in the Community Ventures Program, focusing on structurally unemployed workers, and the Michigan Advanced Technical Training Program (MAT2), a realization of Gov. Snyder’s goal to apply German-style apprenticeship models into American education curriculum.

For the demand-driven model to be truly successful, employers require access to the widest talent pool as well as customizable training options that can adapt to their unique needs. An important first step is incentivizing statewide partners, such as community colleges and non-profit centers, to continue to reach beyond traditional associate degree programs to help potential employees easily obtain necessary job certifications and specific skills training. A greater emphasis can also be placed on populations with unique skills or needs, such as Michigan’s veterans or rehabilitated criminals.

In addition, Michigan should provide proper support for the public and private organizations providing these vital opportunities to Michigan’s workforce. Considering Michigan’s Talent Investment Agency is in its nascent stages, recent funding cuts to entities such as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation are disconcerting and undercutting the very programs that have successfully energized Michigan’s economic comeback. This trend cannot continue if efforts to support the skilled trades and grow Michigan’s workforce are to continue to positively impact our economy.

While there is much to celebrate with the success of programs such as STTF and MAT2, based on the anticipated job growth in highly specialized skilled trades careers, further investment is needed. In support of building Michigan’s talent pipeline, the Chamber will continue to advocate for increased funding for STTF, MAT2, and similarly successful programs. As Gov. Snyder has said, Michigan has made tremendous progress, but there is much work to be done.

Jason Puscas is director of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.