Next stimulus should include workforce development

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Business, education and life as we know it has been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Michigan is where collaboration is abundant, business and education work closely, and innovation is central to who we are as a region. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, representing 2,400 member businesses, and Grand Rapids Community College, a pillar institution of West Michigan offering pathways to close to 30,000 students from different walks of life, have enjoyed a longstanding partnership.

We have shifted, and will continue to shift, to adapt to the needs of our community. There is no doubt our workforce demand will look different post-crisis. While GRCC and the Grand Rapids Chamber have enjoyed partnerships with organizations like West Michigan Works!, The Right Place and Talent 2025, the need for stronger partnerships and additional collaboration will only increase in the future.

National organizations, like National Skills Coalition, are advocating for federal dollars that would support industry-community college partnerships.

We support federal grant dollars that are flexible and require businesses, community colleges and community-based partners to work together, be nimble, and meet the needs of the region. As a critical component to our economic restart, the Grand Rapids Chamber and GRCC calls on our federal government to consider these types of workforce development grant programs.

West Michigan industries will look to institutions like GRCC to provide the training and knowledge necessary to meet our future business needs. There is no better time to reimagine our workforce and provide pathways to success for our entire region, particularly those who have experienced the greatest disparities due to COVID-19, to accomplish a more prosperous West Michigan for all.

Dr. Bill Pink is president of Grand Rapids Community College and Rick Baker is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

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