State training grants help businesses develop stronger workforces

State training dollars can be transformative for small businesses, from the bottom line to workplace culture.

Kyle Brenner credits Going PRO Talent Funds for underwriting software and training that saved his Allegan County business, Brenner Excavating, $50,000 in the first year. 

CSM Services is using a state training grant for leadership training for supervisors.
David Haigler says CSM Services, a Hudsonville commercial cleaning company, used the training funds to set new employees up for long-term success with better onboarding and support from their supervisors.

Since 2013, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has used the funding to inject millions of dollars into the West Michigan economy for short-term training in high-demand occupations.

Training on the job

This year, employers in Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, and Ottawa have been awarded $13,307,802 in training funds. Statewide, over $40 million was awarded to more than 1,000 Michigan businesses.

"The funding allowed us to open the door for this change and for them to have tangible things that they can start utilizing to help them grow into more of that leadership that we want," says Haigler, CSM Services’ human resources director.

He says CSM Services received $96,000 last year and $84,000 in 2020. The funds were used to send supervisors to leadership training and to create an in-house training program.

"The field workers are now receiving training on the job. Not just for one day, but for several days. And now there's documentation to support that training,” Haigler says.

The Hudsonville business with a workforce of 250 people was purchased in 2018 by Gun Lake Investments, the tribally owned non-gaming entity of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians.

Becoming ‘an industry leader’

Brenner Excavating used its grant funding for safety training, training a laborer to work heavy machine operations, and new software and training to use it. 

"The impact that has had on our business has been huge,” says Brenner, who five years ago took over the business his father started in 1976.

"The software really catapulted us into being an industry leader and gave us a huge advantage against other contractors,” Brenner says of the technology that tracks the business’s fieldwork in real-time, including employee work hours. 

He estimates that the company saved $50,000 in the first year by transitioning from employees handwriting timesheets to crew foremen more accurately recording hours by accounting for breaks. The improved data collection helps with estimating the cost of jobs. 

Brenner Excavating is using its state training grants to provide safety training to new employees.

Those efficiencies make the company a better vendor for the Michigan Department of Transportation, which keeps it busy with roadwork from May to November. Located in Hopkins, the company serves a region that stretches from the Michigan-Indiana border to Muskegon to Hastings. 

The two Lakeshore businesses are among 314 employers that are receiving grants ranging from $1,605 to $532,218. 

“The Going Pro Talent Fund continues to be an effective tool at addressing some of these challenges and helping employers hire, upskill and retain their workforce,” says Jacob Maas, West Michigan Works! chief executive officer. “In West Michigan, we are experiencing low unemployment and a lower labor force participation rate. The Going Pro Talent Fund continues to be an effective tool at addressing some of these challenges and helping employers hire, upskill and retain their workforce.”

The grants are intended to support the workforce by underwriting training that often leads to increased wages and advancement opportunities, adds says Amy Lebednick, West Michigan Works! director of business solutions.

“With a low unemployment rate and labor participation rate, it is critical for employers to upskill new and existing employees they have to increase or maintain business capacity,” Lebednick says. 


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.