GRCC offers extensive on-demand workforce training


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Grand Rapids Community College continues to bridge the skill gap for in-demand jobs and prospective employees.

When it comes to workforce training, GRCC offers a myriad of options for employers, existing employees and prospective workers. Not only does it offer job training programs, continuing education and professional development training, but it also designs custom-tailored curriculums to fit the needs of specific companies.

GRCC has provided workforce training services for more than 25 years, ranging from hands-on residential construction classes lasting 20 weeks, to daylong customer service workshops and three-week business strategy modules. In the past year alone, GRCC worked with well more than 600 employers, primarily in Kent, Allegan and Ottawa counties.

Mary Hofstra, senior program manager and certified business solutions professional for workforce training at GRCC, said the college tries to meet the needs of business from all aspects. The customized corporate training program is an option for employers seeking to improve their workforce, processes and overall business in a manner that is convenient and specific to the company.

“It is very tailored to the employers we are working with,” said Hofstra.

In a combination of seeking out employers in different industries, and employers contacting GRCC, the college works with each organization to create a custom curriculum or course to train employees. According to Hofstra, GRCC works closely with The Right Place, Michigan Works and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. in identifying needs in the workforce.

Deborah Lyzenga, business services manager at Michigan Works Kent and Allegan Counties, said her organization has worked with GRCC since 1998 in facilitating job training.

“Within the last year, we really have been collaborating with the employer-driven demand system,” said Lyzenga. “It brings the employers to the table, and the employers are saying, ‘This is the training we need in order to hire the workforce right out of school.’”

Michigan Works Kent and Allegan Counties is a comprehensive workforce development organization for the region, using its network of local service centers and community organization partnerships. According to Lyzenga, the program has been successful in connecting skilled workers with employers.

“People are getting hired right out of the classroom,” she said.

Although GRCC has offered and implemented customized corporate training for more than 20 years, employers now can seek available training funds from the state through the Michigan New Jobs Training Program, through a partnership with GRCC.

The Michigan New Jobs Training Program was created in 2008 as an economic growth incentive program to leverage workforce development capabilities of the 28 community colleges in the state, according to a 2013 Anderson Economic Group report on the program’s economic benefits. Initially financed by the community colleges, the costs of the customized training are reimbursed to the colleges from the state.

According to the report, employers and colleges agree the employer will pay income tax withholding to the college instead of the state treasury. Employers seeking to hire employees in need of training qualify if their business is expanding or starting up in Michigan, and the new positions did not exist within the last 12 months, pay at least 175 percent of minimum wage, and are mutually exclusive from laid-off or replacement workers.

The program’s intent is to bridge the apparent skills gap in the Michigan labor market because it is demand driven by design. Community colleges then work with participating employers in developing and delivering training for appropriate skills needed in workers, according to the report.

GRCC currently has six agreements with employers in Kent and Ottawa counties, which will provide training for at least 4,700 new positions. The agreements total more than $30 million in training investments as part of the 2008 incentive program.

Other workforce training options at GRCC include job training, continued education and professional development. Job training classes involve hands-on training experience and employment assistance after completion. According to the college’s website, courses are based on specific objectives identified by employers, and the evaluation process conducted throughout the program is available to prospective companies to view.

For those interested in improving skills, quality improvement processes, manufacturing knowledge or core skills, another program at GRCC is based on continuing education and professional development. The training option provides courses covering business and entrepreneurship, energy, construction, motorcycle safety, manufacturing, quality and workplace performance skills.

GRCC is based in Grand Rapids but has five locations in Ottawa County that constitute its “lakeshore” campus.

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