Michigan Works! turns to employer labor needs


The Lansing-based Michigan Works! Association provides services to advance Michigan’s Workforce Development System. Photo via fb.com

Michigan Works! has hired a new team of business-centered employees in West Michigan as part of its shifting focus from employees to employers, which have been identified as the agency’s primary customer under a new three-year strategic plan.

The agency has hired eight new business services representatives and one business services manager in Kent and Allegan counties.

The business service representatives will focus on key industry sectors, including manufacturing, health care, IT, energy and agriculture and develop a knowledge base that can be used to identify common talent needs and trends, as well as engage regional economic development and education partners to create a customized solution to an industry or employer need.

“This is the first step to simplifying our system, making it more customer friendly to employers,” said Jacob Maas, executive director of Area Community Services Employment and Training Council. “There is a lot of talent in West Michigan, and our goal with the new service model is to match that talent with current employer demand.”

Labor demand

To better serve employers, the additional employees will spend time learning what businesses in the community really need, particularly in terms of training for employees.

“We can look at labor-market data that says here are the top jobs, but we really want to hear it from the employers themselves. What are the jobs they are looking to fill?” said Jane Kreha, marketing and communications manager for Michigan Works!

“One of the things that they are working on is we have funding that we’ve made available to do customized training,” she added. “This is different from on-the-job training, where these are new employees. This is you have existing employees. What kinds of training do they need to stay on top of things and to even move up to a different position to allow other, new employees to come in?”

A second look

Kreha said that she hopes businesses will give Michigan Works! a fresh look, knowing that prevalent opinion is that the agency is focused primarily on the employee, not the employer.

“Give us another look, because we are doing things differently,” she said.

Mary Pathuis, HR/IT manager with Genzink Steel in Holland, has been working with the new business services team on customized training for its employees.

“The customized training will allow us to elevate our current workforce’s knowledge and skill sets around some specific core competencies,” Pathuis said. “To remain competitive in a global marketplace, we’ve got to keep our workers’ skills current.”

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