MI Works Leader: Winning the War for Talent is Critical For SW Michigan

The overwhelming success of the Going Pro Talent Fund program in Michigan’s Great Southwest is easily and well documented. Unfortunately, the program is currently stalled in the ongoing budget battles in Lansing, and runs the risk of leaving a lot of companies and workers on the sidelines in the drive to close the skilled trades gap.

Lily Brewer, Executive Director of Michigan Works! Berrien-Cass-Van Buren refuses to sit idly by and watch a key element of her team’s success over the last several years simply fade into history. She has written a brief that details the program and its considerable performance and issues a strong message for the Governor and the Legislature to get the job done on approving the dollars for 2020 and beyond.

Here’s what Brewer is sharing to explain the predicament the budget impasse has created:

Talk to any business owner in Southwest Michigan today and ask them their number one concern and you will get the same answer from just about everyone – it comes down to talent.  The ability to attract talent, recruit the right people, develop their potential, and more and more, it comes down to bringing the latest tools and training to the existing workforce.

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That’s why the Going Pro Talent Fund sponsored by the State of Michigan is so important to our region.  Funding for this critical initiative is currently stalled in the Michigan Legislature as the 2020 budget impasse continues, which means our businesses ability to compete and win the war for talent hangs in the balance. 

As the Executive Director for Michigan Works! Berrien-Cass-Van Buren, I have seen firsthand the impact that Going Pro has had in Michigan’s Great Southwest.  Our organizations purpose is to inspire positive economic change, one person, one business, and one community at a time.  We know that in Michigan over the next six years, we will be facing a professional trades workforce gap of over 545,000 openings.  One of the ways we address this gap is by utilizing the Going Pro Talent Fund to assist our job creators in training, developing, and retaining current and new employees.

Over the last three years, 108 employers in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties received over $4.6M in funds resulting in the training of 2,842 existing workers and 1,202 new hires.  Our region had the second largest increase last year in Michigan, proving that our employers need our help. 

For the 2020 application cycle, 69 employers have submitted requests for Going Pro funds totaling $3M dollars and are currently placing their goals on hold until funding is restored. Without this continued funding, 2,703 people in southwest Michigan may not be hired or receive training in 2020.

Make no mistake, workforce development is economic development.  The Talent Fund is a competitive process that allows employers to build solid private-public sector partnerships to assist in training, developing, and retaining the talent they need to succeed.  Since 2014, nearly 100 million has been awarded to more than 3,000 businesses across the state, resulting in the retention of 72,542.  That is larger than the current workforce for all of Berrien County.  Now is not the time to back down on an enormously successful initiative with a proven track record for innovation and success.

We would advocate not only for the continuation of funding in the 2020 budget, but also given the demand by private companies, an increase should be considered.  We will surely see a loss of training and potential hiring opportunities if these dollars are not restored in the state budget.

On behalf of the hundreds of employers and thousands of employees we work with annually, Michigan Works! Berrien-Cass-Van Buren strongly urges the Governor and Legislature to restore the dollars for the Going Pro Talent Fund.