$9.8M federal grant to fund skills training for workers

Grand Rapids Community College and West Michigan Works! have earned a $9.8 million grant to help West Michigan workers gain higher paying skills. 

The U.S. Department of Labor grant will pay for training for in-demand manufacturing skills with a focus on automation and artificial intelligence. GRCC and West Michigan Works! will be lead a coalition of employers, workforce development organizations, educators, and community groups.

The One Workforce for West Michigan Manufacturing project will help people who are unemployed or underemployed gain transformative academic and career skills with enhanced support. 

The program’s community partners will help identify potential students, focusing on people who are low-income, have language barriers, lack foundational skills, or face other barriers to success.

“This funding opportunity will allow GRCC and our community college partners to update and add programming in manufacturing automation, and begin to build data analysis and other skills needed to work with artificial intelligence and data in manufacturing,” says Julie Parks, GRCC’s Executive Director for Workforce Training. “This grant will assist in preparing West Michigan for the future of manufacturing through a holistic approach.”

Coalition partners

The One Workforce coalition includes several employer partners:
  • Autocam Medical
  • Scherdel Sales & Technology
  • GE Aviation
  • JR Automation
  • LG Chem
  • Magna International
  • Howmet Aerospace
  • Aggressive Tooling
  • Steeplechase Tool & Die

Other partners include Montcalm and Muskegon community colleges, Discover Manufacturing Sector Group, the Agribusiness Talent Council, and several community agencies, including Grand Rapids Urban League, West Michigan Hispanic Center, and Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids.

“This coalition will not only provide much-needed skilled talent to our employers, but much-needed resources to some of our residents being left behind,” says Jacob Maas, West Michigan Works! CEO. “West Michigan is home to many amazing community colleges, community-based organizations, and employers. We are grateful to be a part of this effort and excited to build on previous successful collaboratives.”

Industry employs 600,000

Advanced manufacturing is a vibrant, dynamic, and growing industry throughout the state, but especially in West Michigan. More than 600,000 people are employed in the manufacturing sector, and the fields provide a variety of sustainable employment opportunities and upward mobility for those who advance along a postsecondary career pathway.

The federal grant is designed to create seamless community partnerships to build career pathways for local job-seekers to enter middle- to high-skilled occupations in cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, and transportation.

GRCC was one of 19 organizations in the nation and two in Michigan to earn grants in the program.

“This grant is one in a series of funding opportunities helping GRCC and our partners get our region back to work — and in this case, the manufacturing community is the beneficiary,” GRCC President Bill Pink says. “The number of entities coming together on this project shows how cooperation and collaboration make our region grow and thrive. West Michigan is strongest when all of its people have access to opportunities. We appreciate the Department of Labor’s support in our efforts.”

Building community, economy

GRCC has earned more than $16 million in grants in recent weeks, all aimed at helping build the West Michigan community and economy through education.

In addition to the One Workforce program, the Labor Department awarded a $5 million grant to build capacity at GRCC and four other Michigan community colleges to meet regional health care employers' demands for a skilled workforce through the department’s Strengthening Community College Training Grants Program.

GRCC also earned a $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to connect people in vulnerable populations to career opportunities related to the city of Grand Rapids’ river restoration projects, infrastructure, and public works. 
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.