Business groups colleges partner for employee training

LANSING — Many unemployed people are not “work ready,” according to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, but some business groups have found ways to prepare them for the competitive job market.

Bing told the 2012 Michigan Works! For People Conference in Detroit that many job hunters “aren’t ready to re-enter the work force.”

He advocated retraining programs for those who may not be able to meet new employer demands or measure up to foreign competition.

Many business and industry groups are making efforts to help their members and workers develop the additional skills that, according to Bing, are essential for employment in today’s tough economic climate.

Some of these skills are unique for each industry, but many business associations are offering ways to strengthen general job skills such as leadership, critical thinking and business planning.

Edward Deeb, chair and founder of the Michigan Business and Professional Association, said that it’s the responsibility of the business community to provide opportunities for people out of work.

“The reality is, once the economy started taking a nosedive, once the automotive companies laid off people and closed plants, it left thousands without jobs,” he said. “The workplace can always improve through education, and we can help unemployed workers improve skills to get even better jobs than the ones they had before.”

Deeb said that small business owners in particular could benefit from MBPA’s workshops and leadership programs, especially those in retail and food production.

The association also works closely with the University of Michigan and Western Michigan, Wayne State and Michigan State universities to help local entrepreneurs expand their educational opportunities.

The Small Business Association of Michigan has gone a step further in making it less expensive to retrain by forming a partnership with Davenport University. Employees of SBAM’s members — as well as their dependents — receive 25 percent off tuition.

Davenport, a private university, is based in Grand Rapids and has a number of campuses, including in Warren, Traverse City, Saginaw, Lansing and Holland. Sarah Miller, director of marketing at SBAM, said the greatest advantage of the Davenport partnership is that the university has so many locations.

“We’re a statewide organization and they have statewide campuses,” Miller said. “Basically, any of our members could benefit, and it gives them the capability to cultivate their employees and help them grow.”

Rob Fowler, president of SBAM, said the opportunities provided by Davenport are important to business owners because “often now we’re seeing that the skills of the unemployed and the needs of the employer don’t match.”

But the affiliation with Davenport allows members’ employees to develop these skills by taking courses at a pace that fits their work schedule, in a variety of subjects, including sales techniques, conflict negotiation, social media, innovation and more.

Shelley Lowe, executive director of career services at Davenport, works closely with business and industry groups like SBAM by keeping them informed of the university’s skills programs.

Speaking on SBAM’s podcast, “Business Next,” Lowe talked about how Davenport’s Institute for Professional Excellence, works with businesses and organizations to identify training needs.

“Most small businesses don’t have a large human resources department,” she said. “In those cases we would encourage the group to become involved in one of our free design programs like IPEC, or encourage them to contact an association like SBAM.

“If there is enough interest, IPEC will be happy to tailor the training to meet the group’s needs,” she said.

Davenport also has ties with MBPA. The university sponsors the association’s annual Metropolitan Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, an incentive and prestigious title available to the MBPA’s most elite members.

Davenport is one of several private colleges in Michigan that partner with companies to provide educational services for employees looking to enhance their skills or become more marketable.

For example, Walsh and Baker colleges offer similar services. Walsh College is in Troy. Baker College, like Davenport, has multiple campuses, including in Cadillac and Jackson.

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