Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Worker Left Behind Training People for Michigan's Economic Recovery

The very popular No Worker Left Behind has now hit the 100,000 mark in enrollment, months earlier than anticipated, so naturally our esteemed Legislature saw fit to cut the funding in next year's budget (bitter? do I sound bitter?). Actually, I'm being a little too hard on them here; they knew that the feds were going to step up and help, delivering $38 million to the program through a National Emergency Grant and the Recovery Act. Thank the nice President and the Democratic Congress, because this has certainly been a phenomenal success, it needs to continue and keep growing, and if our lawmakers had their way they would probably kill it like they are now trying to kill the film industry. Ahem. Moving on.

So glad we have that "partner in the White House". Yesterday, Governor Granholm attended a graduation ceremony of the Delta College "Fast Track" program, and heard story after story of people who have already landed jobs due to the training funded by No Worker Left Behind - the program boasts an astounding 93% placement rate. WJRT has the video:

The Saginaw Valley area is seeing an explosion in solar energy jobs. These workers are being snapped up by Hemlock Semiconductor, Evergreen Solar and Dow Corning just as quick as they can be trained. From the story:

Adam Helmer finished Delta College's Fast Start program after being laid off in April. Working as a mechanic for six years, he is now trained to be a chemical process operator.

"Before the end of the program, I already had two job offers from Dow Corning and Hemlock Semi," he said. "That was a new one for me. Here, I could choose."

The same thing happened over on the west side of the state with Montcalm College and Uni-Solar as well; people being hired right out of class before they even finished training. Although the recession slowed Uni-Solar down in 2008 and the beginning of this year, they have signed a long-term contract with a commercial roofer and are looking at hiring sales and marketing people in anticipation of new products being launched in 2010, and new demand driven by the Recovery Act. Production jobs are sure to follow after that.

Training people for the openings now and the opportunities that are on the way is of critical importance, and right now community colleges are busting at the seams to fit all these people in. In addition to these new "green" jobs, there is now some indication that our job market overall is going to start to pick up. WOOD TV reports yesterday that openings have spiked significantly at staffing firms in West Michigan - and they are seeing it across all sectors.

Is this the start of Michigan's economic recovery? Some think that when the temp firms start hiring, it's a sign that the permanent jobs will follow.

We have 70 open positions and they continue to rise every day," she said. The firm has seen a 30 to 35 percent increase in openings since summer, (OnStaff General Manager Emily) Turner said.

Staffing Inc. CEO Dan Barcheski said he's seen a "ramp up in demand" of about 50 percent since middle to late summer.

And EmploymentGroup has seen a 100 percent increase at its 13 area offices since the end of July, President and CEO Mark Lancaster told 24 Hour News 8.

The spike is not limited to one industry or field, the three company leaders said.

"It is across the board," Lancaster said. "Automotive has seen a big uptick both domestic and nondomestic but also the food industry, consumer electronics, energy and actually building products as well."

"I think that clients are less cautious. They are starting to see an increase in their own orders and thus they need people," Turner said.

New unemployment numbers for Michigan are coming out later today, and chances are they are going to go up. The national rate went up last month, and we tend to parallel those rates, so don't be surprised when it happens. But, with these new jobs that are coming, some already here, we might start to see a decline in that rate as we move towards recovery. Fingers crossed.

Slowly but surely it will happen, and the people that are trained and ready to go will be the first hired when it happens. A new study projected that there will be 650,000 "mid level" jobs opening in Michigan by 2016; while the exact numbers are always anyone's guess at this point, the direction our work force needs to follow is one of specialized training to fill these new jobs that are coming - that is a fact. Because of programs like No Worker Left Behind, people will be ready for those jobs - which, of course, will draw more businesses and investment here as well too, as they gravitate to areas with a trained workforce.

Win win. Thank the Democrats for it all. See? They can do something right when they try.