Rob Dickinson: A better way to train our workforce | Business

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“Where are all the people? No one is responding to our job postings.” The Northwest Michigan Works! Business Services team hears these two phrases in some form or fashion nearly every day.

We are busier than we have ever been helping employers with hiring, training and connection needs across the region. From helping employers attract and retain talent to helping form training plans and grant writing in order to pay for those training plans, the Northwest Michigan Works! Business Services team can be a vital part of an employer’s success.

Northwest Michigan Works! provides resources and expertise to make sure job seekers as well as employers in our region are connected to each other and that connection includes the correct skill set needed to compete in today’s market.

We work to develop and run programs from lower elementary school right through college and beyond with a singular mission: to prepare the workforce and employers for the next step. A highlight of our day is when we are able to connect a job seeker with an employer or when we connect an employer to a grant opportunity that will allow them to train their new or current staff.

One such grant that has helped employers in our area for nearly a decade is the Going PRO Talent Fund Award (Talent Fund).

The Talent Fund assists employers with training, developing and retaining current and newly hired employees.

Training must be short-term and fill a demonstrated talent need experienced by the employer. It must also lead to a credential for a skill that is transferable and industry recognized. The benefits to the employee are countless, but chief among them is a new skill that they can take with them anywhere they go, possible promotions and/or raises and a better work experience as more technology enters the workplace.

The benefits don’t stop with the employee. The employer is able to be reimbursed for investing in their team, build loyalty among employees, and with a better trained workforce, they can maneuver the business landscape with more confidence and competitiveness.

When asked about the benefits to her employer, Bear River Electric, Karin Corcoran said, “Training improves employee morale and confidence in their abilities for themselves as well as for customers. This increases production, reduces downtime and allows Bear River Electric to expand our products and service offerings, which also increases incoming business. Increased business is exciting because it creates the need for us to be able to hire additional electricians and apprentices.”

The Talent Fund has trained more than 7,000 individuals in our region. These individuals were trained either as a new hire, a current employee or an apprentice. The Talent Fund is a reimbursement based grant, which means that employers are laying out the funds to train their teams before receiving a reimbursement check.

To illustrate this point, the region’s latest round of grant awards resulted in $8.5 million being invested in employees by their employers while the employers are receiving $2 million in reimbursement for the training.

Employers unanimously agree that the Talent Fund has had an overwhelming positive ROI for their businesses.

Industries over the years that have taken advantage of the Talent Fund include manufacturing, construction, information technology, nonprofit, energy, agribusiness, hospitality, outdoor recreation, healthcare and financial.

Training has covered everything from blueprint reading to high level leadership training, and with the increase in Industry 4.0 technologies, we are equipped to help employers in this realm as well.

In our region, U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeships are used as a way for employers to attract and retain talent. The Talent Fund offers employers an increased incentive to include this particular type of training on their applications. One such employer we’ve helped do that is the Great Lakes Orthopedic Center.

“We have found that through the apprenticeship program we are able to attract a broader range of candidates; thus, we are able to fill vacancies that otherwise could not be filled due to skills gap among available workers” said Nancy Edick, Great Lakes Orthopedic Center. “The apprenticeship training has created an internal pipeline for quality medical assistants trained to Great Lakes Orthopedic standards; thus, we are able to expect increased productivity, which results in increased profitability.”

Since 2014 our region has procured 352 Talent Fund awards. Those awards have brought nearly $9 million in training to our region. We continue to help facilitate this investment for the region so that both employers and employees have the opportunity to enhance their skillset and lives going forward.

The Talent Fund has proven to be a great resource for employers over the years. The Business Services team at Northwest Michigan Works! continues to advocate for and help employers take the next step in their workforce development journey.

We are proud to help connect employers to opportunities such as the Going PRO Talent Fund that has had such a positive impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

To learn more about the services available to employers through Northwest Michigan Works! and the Going PRO Talent Fund, please visit