Rick Snyder unveils proposals to redesign Michigan's workforce development programs
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder today unveiled a series of proposals and initiatives designed to connect job seekers with employers, improve the state's worker retraining programs and provide new opportunities for veterans.
Snyder, in a 14-page message delivered digitally to the state Legislature, described his proposals as part of a "commitment to ensuring that future generations have career opportunities in our state."
Some of the proposals — including worker retraining initiatives and a new website to help companies find talented employees — were modeled after initiatives created at Ann Arbor SPARK when Snyder was chairman of the economic development organization.
The first-term Republican also announced that he would lobby Congress to approve legislation that would allow more entrepreneurial immigrants and foreigners who have earned high-tech degrees here to stay in the U.S.
His proposals — aimed at improving Michigan's economy — come as the unemployment rate has dropped to 10.6 percent. Although several hundred thousand workers are still unemployed, Snyder said significant job opportunities exist in areas such as agriculture, engineering, computer programming, nursing and welding.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget have partnered to create a new jobs website called Pure Michigan Talent Connect — which will provide job listings, career advice and matchmaking resources.
The site, MiTalent.org, is in the early stages and will be completed in June 2012.
"It will help connect Michigan’s talent with opportunities for education, training and employment," Snyder said in his prepared message. "And it will allow employers to discover and retain Michigan talent that can help their company grow and flourish."
Snyder described the federal Workforce Investment Act — which funds the Michigan Works! job assistance program — as an "antiquated" law that needs to be redesigned to respond to a rapidly changing economy.
Snyder called for the Michigan Works! program — which operates in Washtenaw County — to be restructured.
"Today, I am challenging Michigan Works! to modernize its operations, eliminate redundancies, implement best practices and drive more dollars to direct services for our citizens," Snyder said. "Currently, geographic location can act as a barrier to our citizens getting the best possible employment assistance available. Let me be clear: every Michigan Works! door must be open to every eligible Michigander seeking assistance. The ability to utilize the best services at the most innovative agencies will drive better outcomes for our job seekers and our state."
- Directed the state's Workforce Development Agency, Michigan Works! and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to collaborate to identify ways to improve job opportunities for veterans.
- Said Michigan's colleges and universities must produce more students with "marketable and transferable" skills. He cited a recent report by the nonpartisan Center for Michigan estimating that the state produces 20 percent too few computer and math professionals and 14 percent too few health-care professionals.
- Announced the MEDC would replicate a worker retraining program called Shifting Gears, which started at SPARK and was picked up by the state earlier this year, for the software industry. The new program, called Shifting Code, will help workers acquire programming skills. It will start with a pilot initiative in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Kalamazoo.
- Revealed a push to improve the state's Jobs, Education and Training (JET) program, a program funded by the federal government's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) initiative. Snyder said JET will be restructured to deliver funds based on performance metrics and that Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit would be asked to extend its "social entrepreneurship" model to help improve JET's performance.
He hinted at using state funding support to nudge public universities into graduating more students in areas with worker shortages.
"These shortfalls hold the potential to stunt Michigan’s projected economic growth," Snyder said. "State support of post-secondary education should be concentrated in areas that enhance our economic development strategy and provide our students an opportunity to stay and thrive in Michigan."