Government, Higher Education, and Human Resources

GRCC lands federal grant for apprenticeships

School hopes to nearly double the number of apprentices who are on campus.

September 11, 2015
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The federal government awarded a Michigan-based program federal funding through its American Apprenticeship initiative to expand apprenticeships in the Grand Rapids and Detroit metropolitan areas.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded more than $3.9 million in grant funding Sept. 9 to the Michigan Apprenticeship Program Plus — a collaboration between Grand Rapids Community College, Macomb Community College, employers and organizations — one of the public-private partnerships intended to create and expand apprenticeship programs to meet high-growth and high-tech industries.

The announcement was made at Macomb Community College in Warren by President Barack Obama as part of the Department of Labor’s American Apprenticeship grant program awarding roughly $175 million in funding to 46 public-private partnerships across the country.

The grant program provides an earn-and-learn training opportunity for students and is intended to align the efforts of employers, labor organizations, nonprofits, local governments and educational institutions to expand apprenticeships, according to the DOL release.

Steven Ender, president at GRCC, said the college has provided educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than a century and is well suited to be a collaborative partner to help meet the needs of employers for highly skilled workers.

“This is an exciting day for Grand Rapids Community College,” said Ender. “This is a proactive approach, taking into account employer needs to continue training workers who can hit the ground running.”

The Michigan-based MAP+ program will focus on providing apprenticeship opportunities in Allegan, Barry, Kent, Macomb, Oakland, Ottawa, St. Clair and Wayne counties. The program will leverage private and public sector partnerships to develop apprenticeship career pathways starting in high school and continuing through associate degree attainment and four-year transferability in advanced manufacturing and information technology.

Dr. Bill Pink, vice president and dean for workforce development at GRCC, said the college has partnered with Macomb Community College in the past and between the two metropolitan areas, the program covers roughly 50 percent of the industry population in the state.

“We have the two largest metropolitan areas and regions in the state, so when you look at what our (reach) is in terms of the counties we serve and the breadth of programs we provide on our campuses, both Macomb and us, it makes sense in terms of engaging with them,” said Pink.

The new and expanded apprenticeship opportunities will cover specific career occupations, such as IT project manager, computer programmer, database technician, electrician, industrial engineering technician, digital sculptor, construction equipment operator, CNC machine tool operator and programmer, welder and mechanical drafter.

While the overall MAP+ program focuses on the IT and advanced manufacturing fields, Pink said the apprenticeship opportunities will differ slightly at GRCC and MCC, based on the programs already offered at the campuses.

“We have a CIS department in our school in workforce development that will engage strongly with external partners with IT apprenticeship opportunities,” said Pink in reference to the computer information systems department. “We will also engage with our manufacturing partnerships.”

MAP+ has a number of private sector partners including Advance Michigan, Global Tooling Alliance, Goodwill Industries, Spectrum Health System, Talent 2025, Manufacturing Skill Standards Council and United Auto Workers.

Public sector organizations participating in MAP+ are the city of Grand Rapids, Kent Career Tech Center, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, Macomb and Ottawa Intermediate School Districts, Michigan Works! Workforce Development Agency- Macomb, St. Clair, and Michigan Works! Area Community Services Employment and Training Council.

The initiative also includes participating employers throughout the state, such as AGS Automotive, Atlas Tool, Ford Motor Co., Randstad Technologies, Perrigo Co., Global Tooling Systems and Autocam Precision Components Group.

GRCC will work with local employers and industry partners including Spectrum Health, Haworth, Perrigo, Randstad Technologies, Autocam and Kent Career Technical Center to provide the apprenticeship opportunities.

“What is cool about it is, GRCC has right around 400 apprentices on our campus right now with folks who are in GRCC apprenticeships; we will close to double the number of apprenticeships we are providing for West Michigan,” said Pink.

The 46 public-private partnership winners of the roughly $175 million American Apprenticeship initiative have committed to collectively train and hire more than 34,000 new apprentices during the five-year federal program.

The Michigan-based MAP+ program anticipates reaching at least 600 individuals during the next five years, and also will focus on providing support services to underrepresented populations, youth and veterans.

“The target is 600, although we are going into this with the expectation we will be able to reach more than that goal,” said Pink. “We are interested to see the level of sustainability beyond the grant with what GRCC is engaged in already prior to this. Apprenticeships are a space we stand pretty strong in already.”

With more than 30 key partners collaborating in the eight-county program, Pink said GRCC is pleased with the level of collaboration from workforce, economic development, educational and employer organizations.

“It is incredible. We in Michigan are known for manufacturing and have come back so strongly. We are known for being able to service our community in terms of industry,” said Pink.

“Through this strong collaboration, we are able to stand up as a strong voice in the country in terms of them recognizing Michigan as a strong recipient of these federal dollars. It is a pleasure to be recognized in this way for what we plan to do — not only in West Michigan and on the east side of the state, but what the grant means to the state of Michigan as a whole.”

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