Planning task force formed for agribusiness job-training program in Ypsilanti
A 17-member planning task force has until Aug. 31 to report back to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners with plans for a new job-training pilot program in Ypsilanti.
The county board gave approval earlier this month to establish the task force for the proposed program, officially called Seeds for Change: Growing Prosperity in Ypsilanti.
The program is intended to provide job training and placement for low-skilled, unemployed workers, specifically those interested in agribusiness. The initiative also involves the creation of a shared kitchen incubator and technical support, giving agribusiness entrepreneurs a low-risk opportunity to expand production and take products to market.
Commissioners received a six-page report on the program from Mary Jo Callan, director of the Office of Community and Economic Development.
"Poverty and unemployment are on the rise in Washtenaw County and throughout the state," Callan wrote in the report. "The state Legislature's recent action to limit cash assistance will create even more need in the community. A new approach is needed to engage longtime impoverished residents who have not been successful in traditional workforce development and human service efforts to transition them out of poverty and into full employment."
Callan said the initiative has the support of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Gov. Rick Snyder. The program is planned to be based in Ypsilanti to make it easily accessible to population centers with proportionally high poverty rates.
"Its primary aim is to provide a space for low-skilled, chronically unemployed or never employed residents to experience success in a low-skill, meaningful job in the growing agribusiness and food service sector, with opportunities to advance into other full-time employment opportunities within the industry," Callan wrote to commissioners.
"All participants will have access to onsite childcare, skills training, coaching and case management, and volunteer job navigators to help them stay engaged in employment and transition out of poverty," she added. "Additionally, any interested participants will be paired with an entrepreneur to assist in planning and launching a related business venture."
The 17-member task force is to include a representatives from the county, MEDC, Washtenaw County Workforce Development Board, Food Gatherers, Zingerman's Community of Businesses, SPARK, city of Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, United Way of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Community College, Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan and others.
The task force also will be supported by a technical committee of county staff and others. The county board has asked that the task force complete its work and report back by Aug. 31.