James Mitchell| Crain’s Custom Media

Budget considerations awaiting approval in Lansing include the potential expansion of a jobs training program described as “wildly successful” by workforce managers. The matching-grant Skilled Trades Training Fund has proven itself a key player in the effort to fill a growing number of open jobs.

The governor has asked to double the funding,” said Luann Dunsford, CEO of Michigan Works! Agencies, which partners with local employers to provide updated training made possible by the matching grants. “It’s one of the sharpest tools in our tool box.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has asked for an additional $10 million for the program, a total of $20 million to be spent in the next fiscal year. Created in 2013, STTF offers competitive awards for customized training courses with an emphasis on upgrading existing staff skills while also resulting in new hires. About 75 percent of the 5,000 workers who had received training through STTF funds as of September 2014 were current employees who needed technology or skill enhancement.

“When you think of the rapid pace of change, with IT especially, the need to keep up is very important,” said Linda Kruso, Beaumont Health Systems director of Workforce Planning. Kruso said that 30 staff members were currently enrolled in STTF-financed training.

Participating companies register through MWA, which coordinates classroom, on-site or apprentice sessions as needed for a maximum of $1,500 per trainee. Relatively modest grant amounts – Kruso said the most recent was $37,000 – served the double-barreled purpose of updating the hospital’s IT staff while freeing up training funds for other areas.

“I don’t think you can ever have enough resources to do all the training and development you need,” Kruso said. “The nice thing about this fund is it gave us the opportunity to identify where some of the other needs were in the IT department, and to provide those opportunities.”

Virtually all skill areas – from STEM positions to IT and all points between – are eligible for STTF training. Credit for the program’s success, Kruso said, goes to the established pipeline of employment agencies, educators and hiring managers able to provide the curriculum that answers specific workplace needs.

“It’s important that there be a partnership,” Kruso said. “When there’s money spent to train people it aligns with the current needs of the employer. It’s important for all three corners of the stool to work together.”

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