Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 12, 2013

Workforce development at the speed of business

TRAVERSE CITY — Thankfully, there’s a lot of good news in the world of talent development.

As usual, most of the great ideas and innovative approaches are being generated at the local level, not just in Northwest Michigan but all over the country. Many governors, including Governor Snyder, are using effective state policies to enable and enhance the work of locally-led private sector boards that know what businesses need for economic growth.

Much of what businesses need now is good talent, ready to work, with a great base of knowledge, curiosity, creativity, and willingness to keep learning throughout their lives. Here are some of the key ways in which the education and workforce development sectors are working in tandem to help business and communities become stronger and more resilient.

Finding the appropriate roles

Assessing and reaching agreement on the appropriate roles for publicly-funded programs is difficult at best. We are motivated to find the highest and best use of every public dollar. So in primary and secondary education, we concentrate on foundational knowledge and skills, work ethic, learning how to learn and how to be individually responsible while still working well in teams like we need to in the workplace.

The best community colleges, including Northwestern Michigan College, have become experts in knowing how to continue meeting students’ general educational needs while also addressing specific regional, national and even global markets. Examples are NMC’s robotics, water studies, aviation and healthcare programs. New techniques like breaking curriculum into marketable modules and transforming two-year programs into optional short term, intensive models are fulfilling new and necessary roles.

At Northwest Michigan Works, we are focusing on helping education understand employers’ workforce needs so they can build an appropriate pipeline of future employees for our region. For people who are already in the workforce, we’re concentrating our limited training funds on filling current market needs for employers, thereby producing more stable incomes for families. This training is for many types of workers: a laid off production worker who has no hope of going back to the same kind of work but who has untapped talent for more advanced occupations; a disadvantaged young adult who is just discovering that he or she does, indeed, have a lot to offer; a single parent who is juggling part-time work with parenting while also preparing for higher-skilled work that will support the family. We still serve everyone who wants help. But training is the most expensive service we provide and we’re now concentrating our training resources on more immediate results.

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