By James A. Mitchell| Crain’s Custom Media
State officials are looking back on the first full year of an employer-subsidized training program as a success.
The initial goals have been met and exceeded for the Michigan Advanced Technology Training – also called MAT2, or “MAT squared.”
“We’re on a very rapid ramp-up pace,” said Amy Cell, Senior Vice President of Training Enhancement at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We’re on a trajectory to double or triple our growth from the first year.”
MAT2 was first proposed after Gov. Rick Snyder had seen the apprenticeship-based model at work while visiting Germany in 2012. MAT2 launched in fall 2013 with 30 students subsidized by 11 companies enrolled at two partner schools, Oakland Community College and Henry Ford Community College. The program focused on computer-based manufacturing tools such as mechatronics, CAD/CAM product design, and simulation.
A year later, the fall 2014 semester welcomed 68 students at three campuses that offered three areas of study. Macomb Community College had joined the program, which now included technical product design and information technology in the curriculum.
The basic formula of employer-subsidized education combined with hands-on job training represents an investment of about $70,000 per student by the company. Students receive an eight-week training session with a stipend to help cover the bills during classroom time, and an hourly wage for work performed on site. Graduating employees typically begin a two-year contract that Cell said often translates to longer-term career possibilities.
“Companies who invested are likely to continue investing,” Cell said. “We see tremendous loyalty, and it works all around.”
Janene Kelly Erne, apprentice coordinator at Oakland Community College, said she expects the program to continue expanding, both in enrollment and scope.
“In the last 18 months we’ve seen a push on it,” Erne said. “MAT2 offers actual, technical training as an alternative to a four-year degree.”
For the fall 2015 semester, Cell anticipates more than 200 students taking courses in four programs, with computer numeric controls studies joining the offerings. MEDC planners have been in conversations with more employers and additional community colleges – beyond southeast Michigan to include the Upper Peninsula – and that a related program in Grand Rapids will introduce advanced manufacturing partnerships.
Oakland is exploring the apprentice model for fields as diverse as Certified Nursing Assistants and truck driving, and also jump-starting the process at the high school level.
“We’re seeing a variety of different models of work and study” Cell said. “It fills immediate and critical needs that employers have in a very direct way. There’s a lot of potential, and we’re moving as quickly as we can.”