Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 2, 2013

NMC receives $500,000 for jobs program

TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College received $500,000 for a New Jobs Training Program designed to help companies in northern Michigan with employee training.

“The benefit of this program is that companies are more willing to do training and develop an employee’s skills, particularly someone who doesn’t quite have the skills the company needs,” said Richard Wolin, NMC’s director of training.

Right now, area companies are more willing to invest in training less qualified candidates owing to the tight labor market in manufacturing, particularly in machining and CNC, computer numerical control, he said.

Twelve companies in northern Michigan have open contracts with NMC, the only community college in the northern half of the state that is writing training contracts. About half the companies are located in the Traverse City area. Others are located as far away as Onaway and Charlevoix, he said.

The program helps a wide range of companies, particularly those with highly specialized needs, Wolin said.

“In one case, AGD Forest Products in Grayling is buying a brand new piece of equipment, a sawmill, and they’ll need training for that equipment,” he said.

The training program is aimed at companies that intend to add employee numbers. They can take the payroll taxes they normally would pay to the state and apply them toward training new or promoted employees who earn $12.95 an hour or more.

“It’s modeled after the (tax increment financing) for economic development,” said Wolin.

He referred to a program that freezes property taxes in a TIF district at the current value. As development occurs and property values rise, the city “captures” the increased property taxes to help pay for public improvements or new development projects.

“This is a human development version of it,” Wolin said.

The state training program is funded at $50 million a year. NMC takes a 14 percent administration fee; an additional 1 percent goes to the Michigan Community College Association, which coordinates the whole program, he said.

Funding rotates among community colleges and doesn’t have a consistent time frame, Wolin said.

“The first time it took 18 months, and then it was back in three months,” he said. “It comes on average of six to eight months; that might change because other colleges are jumping in the mix.”

NMC also serves as a Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center to help manufacturers become globally competitive, Wolin said.

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