Points of View

Skilled Trades Training Fund Upskills West Michigan Workers

Sam Stebbins

Over 200 West Michigan employers have received grants to train both current and new workers. The Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF), a program through Michigan’s Talent Investment Agency and Michigan Works!, announced their awards for Fiscal Year 2018. Awards in West Michigan saw a significant increase for the second year in a row, totaling $8.4 million over FY18’s $5.1 million.


Deb Lyzenga, Regional Director of Business Solutions at West Michigan Works!, explains that the increased funding is due to both increased demand for skilled workers and positive performance in the past related to STTF funding. “West Michigan has taken a good portion of STTF again this year. I think as more employers found out about this fund across the state, it became more competitive. However, in our region employers and community partners have done a great job helping us get the word out to more employers in West Michigan. Because of this effort, West Michigan Works! has even more employers requesting us to assess their training needs and help them with their applications for STTF,” she says.

   

Training West Michigan’s Workforce

As West Michigan employers have grown, so has the need for more trained workers. SSTF provides an opportunity for employers to address the skills gap. As companies grow, they can use STTF dollars to prepare new hires through apprenticeships or training programs, or upskill their current workforce.


“We are consistently hearing from economists and strategists that because of the low unemployment rate, employers are investing in equipment and machinery in order to increase production,” Lyzenga explains. “We are hearing of capital investment first hand from employers in West Michigan who are using STTF funds to upskill their current workforce to use and program the new equipment they are purchasing.”


STTF also opens the door for employers to work with those who have barriers to employment. “According to the Upjohn Institute we have 21,000 people in West Michigan available to work, and many of them have barriers to employment,” says Lyzenga. Resources like STTF, as well as West Michigan Works! and other non-profits, assist people in overcoming barriers. “All of these factors result in a win for our job seekers, employers and community.”


Employers will use grant funding to train workers for high-demand positions and skills, including:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant,
  • Medical Assistant,
  • Blue Print Reading,
  • Welding,
  • Industrial Maintenance Mechanics,
  • Mechatronics/Construction, and
  • Java Script.

  

STTF Benefits the Whole Community

In addition to helping employers meet their need for skilled workers, Lyzenga explains that STTF funding benefits the community overall. “A skilled workforce translates into revenue for our community through consumer spending and increases the quality and competitiveness of Michigan businesses.” Investing in employees also helps local businesses become industry leaders, and at the same time employees learn a valuable skill which results in sustainable wages. “All of these factors result in a win for our job seekers, employers, and community.”

    

How Employers Can Stay Up to Date

Lyzenga encourages employers to sign up for the quarterly West Michigan Works! WorkSmart Newsletter to keep up with STTF and other opportunities. Additionally, employers can connect with and join the industry councils to work on both long- and short-term solutions to the talent shortage and retaining highly skilled workers.


Has your company utilized STTF grants to train workers? What do you think about upskilling your workforce and removing barriers to employment? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.