Michigan Works! Going PRO Talent Fund strengthens workforce through training

Room for career advancement and internal growth can be just as important as landing the job in the first place. Among the many resources offered through Michigan Works! Macomb/St. Clair, the Going PRO Talent Fund benefits employers and employees alike, helping employees expand their skill sets and providing funding for training.

Through the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, the Going PRO Talent Fund was formed to help ensure Michigan’s employers have the talent they need in order to compete and grow within their industries. It provides resources for short-term classroom/customized training, on-the-job training for new employees, apprenticeships, and reimbursements for training.

Jennifer Kimm, Program Specialist with Michigan Works! Macomb/St. Clair, says the competitive award is distributed throughout the entire state with an application cycle biannually in the winter and spring.

“In the past, it was called the Skilled Trades Training Fund and in 2019, it became the Going PRO Talent Fund,” she says. “It has been successful not only across the state, but in Macomb and St. Clair counties as well.”

Christopher Reilly, Director of the Macomb/St. Clair Employment and Training Agency speaks at an Eastern Michigan Manufacturing Association meeting about the Going PRO Talent Fund, apprenticeships, and other grants available through Michigan Works!

Funding is awarded to companies to utilize in training to help address skill shortages and provide credentials, certificates, and degrees. Since its inception in 2014, a total of 6,016 awards have been granted with an average award amount of $36,149.

The majority of employer participants in the program are in the manufacturing industry, but others include medical companies and service industries. Kristie Betts, Business Account Manager with Michigan Works! Macomb/St. Clair, says the application has a few requirements for employers. Eligible employees (current or new) must be permanent, full-time employees, work primarily in Michigan, be citizens or legally authorized to work in the U.S., and be 18 years of age or older.

The approved training must fill a demonstrated need of the employer, be short-term, and lead to a credential for the employee. Amounts requested must be less than $2,000 per person or $3,500 per U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Registered Apprentice.

“There are a variety of different ways they can utilize these funds,” Betts says. “Generally, it’s short-term classroom training, under a year, and the training has to be done within six months.”

She says they also have funds available to train new hires as well as apprentices, and they apply for the funds for those specific trainings.

“There are several different providers in our area, like St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, and different for-profit training areas that can train the local workforce,” Betts says.

PTM Corporation.

Applications are reviewed individually, and once approved, move on to the State of Michigan in Lansing she says. After a review process using a point system, the awardees are announced at the end of January.

“Once we get the awards, we’ll contact the employers who have been awarded, and they can start their training plan. The time period is usually about a year,” Betts says. “The first cycle this year will begin on Feb. 1, 2023, and goes until the end of January 2024. We do have a mid-cycle that we’ll take a look at all the companies to see if they’d like to apply for that, in the spring.”

Karen Helfrick, Apprenticeships Manager with Michigan Works! Macomb/St. Clair, says she’s noticed a trend in applications.

“We do tend to find employers who have taken the leap and applied previously are much more confident and can get through the application a bit faster in the next go-around,” she says.

One such employer is PTM Corporation, a third-generation, full-service metal stamping supplier in Ira Township. PTM Corporation Executive Director of Human Resources, John Tucker, says participating as a Going PRO Talent Fund employer has been extremely valuable to the company.

John Tucker, Executive Director of Human Resources for PTM Corporation.“I heard about the program when it was called the Skilled Trades Talent Fund. I applied every year except for the very first year,” he says. “What drew me to it was the opportunity that it presented to employers. It really allows us, as employers, to upskill our people, give them more opportunities to learn and grow, greater opportunities for promotions, and more compensation.”

After receiving awards from the fund for three years, Tucker estimates between 300 to 400 PTM employees have benefited from training made possible by the Going PRO Talent Fund. Employees who have benefited from the awarded funding have also moved up in their professional careers including leadership and management roles, something Tucker is proud to see happen.

“Our feeling is that when we lift our people up in that way, we win as an organization,” he says. “We’re better prepared to meet the challenges of this ever-changing environment that we face.”

PTM Corporation used funding awarded for current employees, as well as new hires and apprenticeships. Tucker says much of the organization’s growth is due, in part, to resources provided by the Going PRO Talent Fund.

“We have seen record growth from when I first started applying to this program to now,” he says. “One of the ways the funding has benefited was being able to develop our associate base to take on more of the work that we felt was necessary for us to grow. We focused more on technologies that allowed us to take on more work. We added robotic weld cells, technologies like transfer presses and things we had not possessed prior to that. Because of our ability to help our associates grow in their skillset, it really prepared us to be able to grow with technology.”

Tucker encourages other companies, regardless of their industry, to look further into the program and the free resources it can give employers and employees. The application is streamlined and simple he says.

“If you’re not taking advantage of this available money, you’re definitely losing out in many instances,” he says. “You’re not only losing your competitive edge as a company competing against other companies, but you’re also failing to provide elements of retention for your employees. If you train your associates and provide them with those opportunities to grow, they’re more likely to stay with you. Even if they don’t stay, you’re strengthening the industry as a whole. Even though we compete with each other, we need a strong industry.”

Employers will soon be able to apply again as the next application period opens on May 1, 2023, ending at 5 p.m. on May 24, 2023. Prior to the application period, businesses will have the opportunity to attend an information session, listed below, to learn more about the Going Pro Talent Fund.

March 7, 2023, from 2-3 p.m. (Virtual) 
Register: March 7 - GPTF Application Orientation   
March 9, 2023, from 9-10:30 a.m. (In person, Clinton Township)
Register: eventbrite.com/e/going-pro-talent-fund-2023-employer-orientation-tickets-551718734587

March 14, 2023, from 9-10:30 am. (In person, Port Huron)
Register: eventbrite.com/e/going-pro-talent-fund-2023-employer-orientation-tickets-551724812767
March 16, 2023, from 9-10 a.m. (Virtual)
Register: March 16 - GPTF Application Orientation 

March 22, 2023, from 2-3 p.m. (Virtual)
Register: March 22 - GPTF Application Orientation

Training will be held from July 17, 2023, through July 16, 2024.

To learn more about the program or to get connected to your local Michigan Works! Talent Fund Key Contact, visit Going PRO Talent Fund - Michigan Works! Macomb/St. Clair (msc-mw.org) or michigan.gov/leo/bureaus-agencies/wd/programs-services/going-pro-talent-fund.
For all other information about Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works! services, visit MSC-MW.org.
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing resident, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.