Michigan Works! provides resources for employers and job-seekers of all levels

For many, finding a good-paying job is more important than ever before. With companies constantly posting ‘now hiring’ signs in their windows and on their websites, the job market is a highly-discussed topic in today’s culture. With many job-seekers seeking out remote work, or switching careers entirely, finding the right fit can prove to be a difficult task. However, with Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works!, that task is much easier.

Providing resources for employers and job seekers alike, Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works! connects potential employees with over 2,000 local businesses, saving companies over $1 million in employment-related costs. With five career centers scattered throughout Macomb and St. Clair counties, Michigan Works! has served over 3,200 job seekers regionally and provided more than 900 workshops annually.

Although the center offers job training, resume writing resources, and career development for all ages, many typically think of Michigan Works! resources for those new to the job market. Job-seeking is not a one-size-fits-all, nor is it tailored solely for youth or young adults seeking a high school diploma, or fresh-out-of-college graduates. Michigan Works! provides a full range of services, proving valuable for all ages, including senior citizens and those who have been in their respective industries for decades already.

Teresa Brittentine, career planner for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), facilitates programming for the community service and work-based training program for older workers, authorized by the Older American Act.

“I help low-income persons who are 55 years or older re-enter the job market by providing them with work–based training opportunities in their community,” she says.

Through sponsoring job fairs, and working closely with local colleges, libraries, Chambers of Commerce, and the Workforce Development Board, Brittentine says all Michigan Works! locations are mainstays within their own individual communities.

At the height of the pandemic, it became evident that the services and resources it provides to the community were needed more than ever. Just as many in-person sites and job locations shut down due to safety concerns, many of Michigan Works! resources switched to virtual. Transitioning from face-to-face visits and in-office programming to virtual Zoom workshops and digital resources was not an easy switch, especially among the older generations, and many clients struggled with technology barriers. Others felt helpless in trying to file unemployment claims after being laid off during the government shutdown.

“There was a great deal of frustration, but we persevered,” Brittentine says, of staff that truly went above and beyond to help clients. Through funding, they were able to provide laptops to those without and connect them to low-cost internet. Brittentine says it was challenging, but it did push some clients to catch up with technology and gain some very useful skills.

“I’m very proud of the team I have because we actually helped a lot of people get their benefits when they were at a total loss, during the shutdown,” she says. “We have worked very hard to make sure we’re able to continue to service our customers and provide what it is that they need to get back to work.”

M. Mason (left), 57, works as an activity assistant and says the Senior Community Service Employment Program helps her to stay active. S. Blanchette, 63, did not work outside the home until joining SCSEP and is working to build upon computer and employability skills through the program.

Michigan Works! also provides many resources for local businesses and companies seeking to hire new employees, and help their current workers advance in their respective fields.

Scott Bolt, business account manager works in the Port Huron office of the Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works!, works as a liaison between local businesses and job-seekers in the area.

“The main program we offer to employers is the On-the-job-Training program,” Bolt says. “An employer can actually get 50% of the new hires’ wages reimbursed for a maximum of 320 hours. The job does have to pay at least $14/hour to qualify for that program.”

The federally-funded grant program is for brand new hires in full-time positions and does have some eligibility requirements in place. Bolt says the program’s incentives are appealing to many businesses.

“That’s a big selling point to employers because it takes some of that cost of hiring or taking a chance on a new individual off the employer,” he says. “We can offset some of those costs for them, for the first couple of months while they’re getting employees up to speed and becoming marketable in the position.”

Bolt says some of the lesser-known business service resources they offer include the on-site conference room, which can be used for interviews, hiring events, or career fairs. They also assist employers in creating and listing job postings.

“We kind of work as an extension of the hiring team, and offer them as much assistance for their workforce needs as we can," he says." We know a lot of employers are overwhelmed, or just don’t have the time or resources to do everything.”

Within the ever-changing job market, Bolt hopes employers continue to look within and utilize resources to help train and promote current employees, and offer apprenticeships.

“Apprenticeships have really been a focus of ours,” Bolt says. “We’re trying to get employers to recognize they have workers there already that they’re trusting and depending on, who might not have the skillset right now, but let’s get those skills built up, and get those workers into the positions you need filled.”

Looking internally to fill positions is beneficial for both employers and employees, Bolt says.

“Job-seekers and employees value that their employer values them and their input,” he says. “It really seems to spark an uptick in morale and investment on the employees’ side if they see an employer investing in them through training or apprenticeships.”

Another trend Bolt is seeing is employers looking at applicants with challenging backgrounds, including misdemeanors or felonies. The Clean Slate Pilot Program helps employees who may have a criminal conviction on their public record that is preventing them from progressing to the next level of employment. The program provides free expungement assistance for those who qualify, enabling career advancement, and in turn, enabling housing and further educational opportunities.

“Employers are opening their doors to people they may not have considered before whether they have a challenging background, felonies, or things like that,” he says. “Some employers are more open to getting a little more creative and re-evaluating how they’re doing things.”

To learn more about Michigan Works! and its opportunities, visit macomb-stclairworks.org.

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 spohn9@gmail.com.