GRCC, West Michigan Works! receive federal grant to build job skills

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The One Workforce for West Michigan Manufacturing project is designed to help people who are unemployed or underemployed gain in-demand manufacturing skills with a focus on automation and artificial intelligence to fill job roles. Courtesy GRCC

Grand Rapids Community College and West Michigan Works! were awarded a $9.8 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to lead a coalition of employers, workforce development organizations, educators and community groups in the One Workforce for West Michigan Manufacturing project.

The project is designed to help people who are unemployed or underemployed gain in-demand manufacturing skills with a focus on automation and artificial intelligence to fill job roles.

“This grant is one in a series of funding opportunities helping GRCC and our partners get our region back to work, and in this case, the manufacturing community is the beneficiary,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “The number of entities coming together on this project shows how cooperation and collaboration make our region grow and thrive. West Michigan is strongest when all of its people have access to opportunities. We appreciate the Department of Labor’s support in our efforts.”

GRCC was one of 19 organizations in the nation and two in Michigan to earn grants in the program. The employer partners include Autocam Medical; Scherdel Sales & Technology; GE Aviation; JR Automation; LG Chem; Magna; Howmet; Aggressive Tooling; Steeplechase Tool & Die; Montcalm and Muskegon community colleges; West Michigan Works!; Discover Manufacturing Sector Group; the Agribusiness Talent Council; and community agencies Grand Rapids Urban League, West Michigan Hispanic Center and Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids.

“This coalition will not only provide much-needed skilled talent to our employers but much-needed resources to some of our residents being left behind,” said Jacob Maas, West Michigan Works! CEO. “West Michigan is home to many amazing community colleges, community-based organizations and employers. We are grateful to be a part of this effort and excited to build on previous successful collaboratives.”

The partners will help identify potential students, focusing on people who are low income, have language barriers, lack foundational skills or face other barriers to success.

“This funding opportunity will allow GRCC and our community college partners to update and add programming in manufacturing automation and begin to build data analysis and other skills needed to work with artificial intelligence and data in manufacturing,” said Julie Parks, GRCC’s executive director for Workforce Training. “This grant will assist in preparing West Michigan for the future of manufacturing through a holistic approach.”

This grant follows a series of other grants that the GRCC was awarded. The community college earned more than $16 million in grants in recent weeks, all aimed at helping build the West Michigan community and economy through education.

The Labor Department awarded a $5 million grant to build capacity at GRCC and four other Michigan community colleges to meet regional health care employers’ demands for a skilled workforce through the department’s Strengthening Community College Training program.

GRCC also earned a $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to connect people in vulnerable populations to career opportunities related to the city’s river restoration projects, infrastructure and public works.

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