Blog: Legislature Must Come to Budget Agreement for Going PRO Talent Fund

The Going PRO Talent Fund has been a strong and consistent force in developing southeast Michigan’s skilled and educated workforce. We have seen firsthand the impact in Oakland County where workforce development goes hand in hand with economic development. Our focus on human capital ensures our viability and stability and has been critical in attracting and retaining domestic and international companies.
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Jennifer Llewellyn
Jennifer Llewellyn // Courtesy photo

The Going PRO Talent Fund has been a strong and consistent force in developing southeast Michigan’s skilled and educated workforce. We have seen firsthand the impact in Oakland County where workforce development goes hand in hand with economic development. Our focus on human capital ensures our viability and stability and has been critical in attracting and retaining domestic and international companies.

Unfortunately, this stability is at risk.

Created by the Snyder administration, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is an active supporter of this important program (though she cut funding for the effort in the most recent budget). The state Legislature demonstrated early support to continue the program, but has yet to agree on a final state budget so funding can continue toward the important work of growing a talent base that strengthens our local economies.

We cannot overstate the importance of the Legislature coming to an agreement on the Going PRO Talent Fund program. These funds allow businesses to provide valuable training to new and existing employees in advanced manufacturing, software programming, construction trades, and robotic operations. Funds are used for classroom training, reimbursement for onsite training, and U.S. Department of Labor-registered apprenticeships that lead to in-demand jobs in Michigan’s high-growth industries.

As a result of the investment the state of Michigan made in the Going PRO Talent Fund, Michigan workers realized an average salary increase of nearly $6,000. It helped existing employees obtain needed credentials for advancement. The state estimates that 22,000 Michigan workers will be denied critical training and potential salary gains if the funding is not restored.

Since the Going PRO Talent Fund inception, the state has helped position many communities and employers for much-needed workforce development opportunities. Oakland County employers have been awarded $7.5 million, resulting in the hiring of 2,253 new employees and training of 6,345 existing workers. Since 2017, Oakland County employers added 114 apprenticeships.

In 2019, 68 employers who received awards included such familiar names as FCA, Henry Ford Health System, and BorgWarner, as well as numerous small businesses and less familiar domestic and international companies. Companies leveraged more than $6 million of their own money to train the employees and new hires.

What’s often lost in the discussion about the Going PRO Talent Fund is the ability of state and county governments to develop unique opportunities for employers to introduce Michigan’s future workforce to multiple industries and the jobs of the future.

Earlier this month, nearly 1,300 high school students from 25 area schools and four Oakland Schools Technical Campus locations were guests of 48 employers for national Manufacturing Day. On Nov. 8 in Novi, more than 11,000 high school students from Southeast Michigan will participate in a career exploration event with 120 employers at MiCareerQuest Southeast, the largest event of its kind in the state.

These two events allow companies to showcase their operations and potentially keep valuable talent in the state. The relationships forged from their participation in the Going PRO Talent Fund resulted in their participation in Manufacturing Day and MiCareerQuest Southeast, the development of apprenticeship programs, and other innovative solutions that solve employer needs. Many of these companies would not have known about those programs without the initial contact made through the Going PRO Talent Fund.

The Going PRO Talent Fund is an example of an innovative government program with proven results. We call on the Legislature to renew efforts to ensure the continuation of the fund. This is too important to our communities and those who call Michigan home — our workers and employers.

Jennifer Llewellyn is manager of the Oakland County Workforce Development and director of the Oakland County Michigan Works! Association.

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