MTEC Fills Training Niche

January 13, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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(Editor’s note: One of 10 stories profiling the finalists for Thursday’s Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year Award.)

GRAND RAPIDS — 2002 was a year of partnerships and rejuvenation, and nothing exemplifies partnerships and rejuvenation more than the Tassell M-TEC.

On a sweltering day in late August, the ribbon was cut and Grand Rapids Community College opened the Leslie E. Tassell Michigan Technical Education Center, welcoming a new form of work-force development to the area.

The center then set forth to partner local philanthropists with local government, local government with businesses, businesses with education, and education with students in an effort to rejuvenate the region and bring true a promise the city had made to the community: to produce more jobs and more highly skilled workers to fill those jobs.

After all was said and done, the $13.3 million facility opened to students on Sept. 4, providing 90,000 square feet of dedicated space for hands-on training in manufacturing, production, automobile repair and construction trades.

“Local businesses today are demanding more highly skilled workers. With the help of the state and special, committed community partners, GRCC is proud to meet this need with the opening of the Tassell M-TEC,” said Juan Olivarez, president of GRCC.

“And we stand here to take the concept of partnership to new levels. We must work with employers to make sure they are getting what they need, and we will work with our partners to make sure we fill the changing positions over time.”

The Tassell M-TEC was seeded with a $3.3 million Michigan Economic Development Corp. Grant. GRCC matched the grant and launched a capital campaign in 2000, raising the additional money through local donations.

Named in honor of the local businessman who donated $1.5 million to the project, the Leslie E. Tassell M-TEC is GRCC’s second, serving West Michigan.

In yet another demonstration of the philanthropic nature of this project, the 11-acre plot of land on which the M-TEC is located was donated to GRCC by MichCon, a DTE Energy company. The MichCon Foundation also awarded a $250,000 Legacy Grant to GRCC to help build the center.

George Waite, director of the Tassell M-TEC, said the newest M-TEC adds to the mix that is already in place, referring to GRCC’s Applied Technology Center and other centers in Ottawa County.

“They are all similar in focus and fostering work-force development, but they all have a different group of students to serve, catering to the unique needs of the area,” said Waite.

At the same time, former Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus stressed the center’s importance to career development.

“Before, we weren’t worried about training our work force; we were just trying to create jobs so we could then train our work force,” said Posthumus. “With the development of the new M-TEC Center here in Grand Rapids and elsewhere in the state, I believe we are really taking notice to the importance of training our workforce — and we are getting something done.”

And now it is easier to see that something is indeed getting done. With Michigan investing $60 million to establish the centers throughout the state, a return on investment is a must.

Late last year, data was released demonstrating that M-TECs have launched Michigan into the national spotlight for possessing a highly skilled and flexible work force and have exceeded long-term goals.

Since the program’s inception in 1997, M-TECs have exceeded the five-year goal of the number of employees trained by an estimated 6,700, and have provided service to more than 1,000 employers and 33,000 trainees, totaling over 589,800 training hours.

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