Economic Development, Human Resources, and Nonprofits

Forum discusses future of the urban workforce

May 14, 2014
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Forum discusses future of the urban workforce
Jamiel Robinson, left, and Jonathan Jelks, right, are the co-founders of Empower Michigan. Courtesy Jonathan Jelks

People of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to attend a candid forum tomorrow night on how urban workers in the region can make a living in the future.

The Future of the Michigan Workforce will be held Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Grand Rapids Community College’s Calkins Science Center auditorium, at 143 Bostwick Avenue NE.

The forum is part of the Urban Agenda series led by Empower Michigan co-founder Jonathan Jelks.

Career "trepidation"

The event was developed after a forum last fall where issues surrounding revitalizing inner-city neighborhoods and empowering communities of color were discussed.

“I think many Michiganders are underexposed and have some trepidation about the future in regard to where they are going to work and putting food on the table,” Jelks said. “I think we have an opportunity to organize and have an exchange of ideas with some of the premier economic minds in the area to let people know what our future has in store, what the opportunities are going to be, what the education level is that is necessary for citizens to take advantage of our economy moving forward.”

Topics

The forum will address several topics: technology and its impact on the local economy; empowering businesses to be anchors for neighborhood revitalization; ensuring people of all ethnic groups and backgrounds share in the opportunities of the new economy; millennials in the workforce; talent retention; workforce development; and ensuring education is preparing students for college and beyond.

Jelks said the event will also explore the transition of being an economy traditionally dependent on the manufacturing sector and moving into the life science and technology sectors and how the working class will work within the new model.

“Another huge one for West Michigan, of course, is diversity,” Jelks said. “As an African-American, often times, we feel people from our community and others aren’t part of these conversations so much. We want to make sure everybody has access to information and access to opportunity, because Grand Rapids and Michigan as a whole tends to operate in homogeneous silos.” 

Panel

The event will feature a six-person panel: Darel Ross, LINC Community Revitalization; Felip Ballesteros, GR Current; Allie Bush, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce; Jamiel Robinson, Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses; Megan Sall, The Right Place; and Paul Isley, GVSU economics department.

“We want to host kind of a cutting-edge conversation to get people’s juice flowing in thinking about the future,” Jelks said. “We wanted to make sure that we represented all facets of business and industry, and we wanted diversity. We wanted people from different backgrounds, organizations, that do different work, and we truly wanted people from different age groups as well.”

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