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Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 10 a.m.

Rick Snyder unveils proposals to redesign Michigan's workforce development programs

By Nathan Bomey

(See related story: Rick Snyder to lobby Congress for federal immigration reform for talented immigrants: 'It's the right thing to do')

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."

Thumbnail image for Rick_Snyder_State_of_the_State_RickSnyder_podium.jpg

Rick Snyder

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,, 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."

Snyder also:

  • 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.
  • 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."

  • 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.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Pooh Bear

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

Gee, Mr Snyder if you would just change the words "Michigan Works" to "Washtenaw County Friend of the Court" and make the same changes (modernize its operations, eliminate redundancies) maybe it would not take months and months to get your caseworker review your case and court to hear it! Oh, not to mention Washtenaw County has 1 to many judges.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 11:56 p.m.

Most of the posters sound like they won't be happy with anything but a 60,000 dollar a year union job that they can't get fired from.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

"Snyder said JET will be restructured to deliver funds based on performance metrics..." Something not required of SPARK.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

"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." You know, SPARK, the company that takes our tax dollars but won't open its books for inspection. We know all about SPARK and the locals politicians who continue to toss funding to SPARK without measurable results.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

Livingston County is now in the process of closing their eyes and jumping in to the ANN ARBOR sparks sink. I wonder how they will like the openness of the operation. I love the name, too. You DO see "Livingston" in there, don't you? lol

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

Thank you for providing a link to the statement in your update to the article. A quick scan of the statement reveals that this is typical of the initiatives coming from this governor: a forceful presentation of the problem with some true realignments of long-existing programs. These alignments typically reflect his objective-driven, efficiency-seeking approach. A sample statement: "Under this new model, the Congress, the Department of Labor, and states would work together to determine a portfolio of outcomes (rather than an assortment of programs) that states would be accountable for achieving through WIA funding. Once the outcomes are determined, states would be free to use WIA funding to achieve agreed upon outcomes." (Referring to proposed changes in the Workforce Investment Act, a federal program that funds many employment services.) This reads like bureaucratic gobbledygook but on closer examination says that defined objectives and goals would be used to allocate money, eliminating or transforming many familiar departments and programs that individuals are accustomed to accessing. It would redirect money to some very specified purposes and probably a smaller, tighter administration of the funds. This creates a possibility of some rugs being jerked out from under a number of feet. Sometimes efficiency can be very upsetting. We'll have to hope that the vision is securely grounded.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5 p.m.

I like the fact that Lawmakers in Lansing are now actually working on solving problems not finger pointing. These are all creative and good - keep up the good work


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

Snyder's actions so far lead one to believe that his main idea for reducing unemployment is to push the unemployed into leaving the state.

Monica R-W

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Sounds like more slogans with no plans to actual help Michiganders go back to work. Typical Snyder. By the way...he's a little late since state unemployment benefits will be cut by 6 weeks, in less than four weeks thanks to him. Also, 10.6%....really, you think that's a drop in unemployment? That's came from the sound of moving trucks out of the state and others giving up all together (i.e. discouraged workers. Lord knows this reporter would never mention these facts. Keeping up the spin for him, right?


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

Do you have any better ideas?? seriously if so tell us please!!


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

I'll bet you think that Granholm would have done much better.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

"The livestream of his talk is not working well." Don't expect to get wine from stone, Vivienne. This is Richard Dale Snyder.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

The livestream of his talk is not working well. Can you supply a copy of the message mailed to the Legislature?


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

Sounds like the MAN has a PLAN! I like this better than Hope & Change!