Michigan Works program helps young professionals succeed

The Young Professionals program has been helpful for Superior Heating and Cooling
Did you know that you must own a set of tools before you can get hired in many trades? That presents a real problem for some people who need to spend several hundred dollars before they can get hired – but don’t have a job to secure the funds.
Solving that Catch-22 is just one of the ways that the Michigan Works! Young Professionals program helps people ages 16 to 24 become self-sufficient, productive members of the workforce.

Services run the gamut from tuition and professional certification/licensing assistance, resume development and interview preparation, personalized coaching, and yes, buying that first set of tools or mandatory steel-toe boots so people can get right to work in a promising field. Their motto, “Educate. Empower. Employ,” pretty much sums up the myriad support services services and activities that are offered free of charge.

Damion Pearson, 24, was essentially adrift career-wise since graduating from Port Huron Northern High School.

“I was never interested in college, but I wanted a stable career where I could make a lot of money,” says the Burtchville resident.
Pearson heard about Michigan Works! after interviewing at Superior Heating and Cooling in Port Huron. The company was willing to hire him, but Pearson first needed $600 worth of hand tools – a common requirement in the trades. So Superior owner Pete Cervini sent Pearson off to Michigan Works! for assistance.
says. “This was awesome and such an easy process.”

Not only did Michigan Works! buy the tools Pearson needed to get started, the agency paid part of his salary while he was Programs like Young Professionals helps workers get the proper tools for a new trade.being trained at Superior.

“I wish I knew about it sooner. We could have used it with previous employees we have trained,” says Cervini, who founded Superior in 1993 and now has two offices and 22 employees. He’s hired two workers through Michigan Works! so far and is “very happy” with the performance of each.

“It’s important that the state and federal governments realize we are going to have a trade worker shortage,” says Cervini. “The Baby Boomers are retiring and so many families are only interested in sending their kids off to college. Programs like this help enlighten people.”

Cervini also appreciates Michigan Works! On-the-Job Training program. Available for companies offering full-time positions that pay a minimum of $12 per hour, OJT pays half of a new hire’s wage for up to 480 hours during the training period, the first three months.

“There is a whole learning curve that comes in a trade like ours, and we were able to train people with assistance where typically we don’t get it,” Cervini says.

Young Professionals even gives workers incentives like a $100 bonus for landing a job or graduating with a credential. The program helps fill jobs in high-demand occupations including truck drivers, certified nurse assistants, and trades like HVAC, bricklaying and construction.

“Anything that will help you get and keep a job that you can’t afford, we most likely have the funding for,” says Aleni Ayar, the Young Professionals regional youth manager for Macomb and St. Clair.

“We will buy you textbooks for school and $200 steel-toe boots for your factory job. I tell employers that they have nothing to lose by signing up with us, and that they can apply for tax credit when they hire a veteran, people with a disability or those with a low-income. I say, ‘Send us the people and we will do the hard part, the paperwork, to get them ready to start.’”

But, Ayar added, this is far from a hand-out. Participants must be willing to work – hard – to take advantage of the many services.

“For some, it’s just too much work,” she says. “This is a privileged program, and just because you’re eligible doesn’t mean you’re suitable.”

Young Professionals is funded through the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) administered by the Macomb/St. Clair Workforce Development Board. Michigan Works!, assists between 350 to 400 young people a year between its offices in Port Huron, Mount Clemens, Clinton Township, Roseville and Warren. Qualifying conditions apply for some services.

“It can be very rewarding work,” says Ayar. “A lot of our clients don’t have families or people who make them feel like they are accomplished something. We are their coach and cheerleader.”

Pearson calls his experience with Young Professionals “a blessing” and says he’s enjoying his new job.

“It’s very hands-on and I love it,” he says. “Of course there are days that are grueling when I’m in a muddy crawl space, but knowing I have a stable career makes up for it.”

Learn more about Michigan Works! and the Young Professionals at https://www.macomb-stclairworks.org/young-professionals/ or by calling 734-612-9535.
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