Employers granted $11.4M in Going PRO funds

Awards will provide training opportunities for thousands of workers in a seven-county region.

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) last month unveiled its Going PRO Talent Fund awards for fiscal year 2021, and employers in West Michigan will receive nearly a third of the total sum.

Since the program’s launch in 2014, over 3,000 Michigan businesses have received Going PRO awards to assist in training, developing and retaining newly hired and current employees. Training must fill a demonstrated talent need experienced by the employer and lead to a credential for a skill that is transferable and recognized by industry.

This year, employers in the West Michigan region of Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon and Ottawa counties have been awarded $11,414,508 in training funds. Statewide, $39,016,692 was awarded to 850 Michigan businesses.

West Michigan Works! is working to notify 283 employers receiving $12,047,230 — which includes awards going to a few out-of-region companies that West Michigan Works! administered grants for — that their applications are being funded in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $498,284. As of Jan. 22, four applications totaling $240,494 were pending.

“The availability of training grants in 2021 is more important than ever before,” said Amy Lebednick, director of business solutions for West Michigan Works!. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made an existing shortage of workers more acute, as we’re seeing low numbers of individuals looking to enter the workforce. The state of Michigan’s (Going PRO) investment will allow our employers to invest in workers, allowing them to continue operations and fill vacancies.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the state’s investment in its businesses and training workers will be part of what leads to a strong economic recovery.


“Programs like the Going PRO Talent Fund allow us to put Michiganders on the path to good paying jobs while helping Michigan employers develop the critical talent they need to compete in the global economy,” she said.

The Going PRO Talent Fund has supported more than 94,000 workers with training over the years, including new hires and current workers.

“With 545,000 professional trades job openings expected through the year 2026, this fund plays a vital role in helping Michigan employers meet their talent needs by investing in homegrown workers,” said Susan Corbin, acting director of LEO.

LEO makes Going PRO Talent Fund awards to employers through Michigan Works! agencies. Participating employers play an integral role in defining their key training needs, then work with the local agencies and other partners to develop appropriate, realistic training plans.


Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works!, said the agency is grateful to Whitmer, state legislators and area chambers of commerce for their work in advocating to restore the funding, which had been cut in the fiscal year 2020 state budget.

“Since the inception of the program, the average annual earnings of trainees have increased by $3,300. These funds truly impact our communities,” Maas said.

Going PRO successes

Rebecca Flermoen is a drafter at Engine Power Components in Grand Haven. Flermoen received training in CAD110 SolidWorks Essentials with the state funding in 2019.

“It’s amazing how fast technology changes; every year (it) gets easier and more efficient to use. It is why continuing education programs are important,” she said. “I went into the training not understanding how much more there was to learn. I came out excited to be able to implement what I learned into my daily work.”

Ben Charlick, human resources manager at Michigan Wheel and chair of the Grand Rapids Chamber’s Education and Workforce Development Committee, said his company relies on the funds.

“Like many other manufacturers, we know and understand that investing in our team members is the key to our success,” he said. “The Going PRO Talent Fund will not only positively impact our business; most importantly, it will positively impact (employees’) lives.”

Duncan Aviation, which has a location in Battle Creek, is the only maintenance provider in Michigan with the capability to perform the vast array of services offered to the large turbine engine corporate aircraft market, according to the state of Michigan. As a result of receiving training dollars, the company will be able to maintain and expand its capacity to work on more aircraft. The training will contribute to succession planning and career advancement of technicians. Duncan also will use it to continue hiring more technicians who will undergo computer-based classroom training and on-the-job experience to become proficient technicians.

Local advocacy

The Grand Rapids Chamber described Going PRO as a longstanding chamber priority and “an invaluable tool that employers can use to train their workforce to meet real-time demand.” The chamber said it is thrilled the program continues to boost West Michigan’s workforce. 

“The Going PRO Talent Fund has a proven track record of success, and we truly believe this program will be a vital component of our COVID-19 recovery,” said Alexa Kramer, director of government affairs. “The Grand Rapids Chamber will continue to prioritize and lead on the advocacy of the program and the need for added resources into this fund for businesses of all sizes and types.”

The Going PRO Talent Fund aligns with Whitmer’s Sixty by 30 goal to increase the number of working-age adults with a skill certificate or college degree to 60% by 2030.

To learn more about the Going PRO Talent Fund, visit michigan.gov/talentfund.

A full list of the fiscal year 2021 awardees is available online.


Going PRO Talent Fund fiscal year 2021 awards by county
Amount (# of awards) Anticipated 

new hires


classroom and apprentice

Allegan $699,425 (7) 363 120
Barry $63,180 (2) 12 88
Ionia $443,106 (8) 165 192
Kent $6,054,633 (146) 1,800 2,110
Montcalm $141,283 (4) 17 58
Muskegon $810,218 (18) 279 383
Ottawa $3,202,663 (66) 1,038 1,292
Other* $873,216 (32) 389 197
awarded to employers
$12,047,230 (283) 4,440 4,063
Administrative funds to West Michigan Works! $841,306
Total $12,890,536

*Out-of-region, administered by West Michigan Works!

Source: West Michigan Works!


Going PRO Talent Fund awards to West Michigan employers
FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY21
Awards 74 136 212 222 283
Amount awarded* $3.1M $5.1M $8.4M $9.4M $12M

*Includes out-of-region grants administered by West Michigan Works!

Source: West Michigan Works!

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