College wins $1M grant for career training
A local college has received a $1-million grant for a project that connects vulnerable populations with careers in public works and health care.
The grant from the Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation will support Grand Rapids Community College’s new Foundations to the Future project, which will target Grand Rapids residents who have low incomes, are single parents, have no or low employment and who are "ready to make changes to get high-quality jobs." Challenges such as gender and racial barriers and criminal backgrounds are also considered.
Participants in the program will undergo skill assessments and receive training and coaching to prepare them for careers.
"The Kellogg Foundation has been a valued partner of our college for many years, and these funds allow us to serve more individuals by providing them with workforce skills and our local employers with skilled talent," said Bill Pink, president, GRCC.
The grant will allow GRCC to work with the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County on a Public Works Academy, which will give residents skills that are now in demand for emerging municipal projects, such as West Michigan’s infrastructure.
The academy — which will target careers in planning, parks and recreation, wastewater treatment, green infrastructure, traffic control, heavy equipment, road work and automotive repair — will include apprenticeships and skilled trades training.
“This new partnership with West Michigan municipalities to diversify their workforce and create opportunities for individuals living in our city promises to make a significant impact on our community,” said Julie Parks, executive director of workforce training, GRCC. “These are careers with great income potential.”
GRCC will also use the grant funding to strengthen a program that combines workforce training with language skills to help those whose native language is not English.
Luis Hernandez heard about GRCC's machinist/CNC for ESL program from a relative.
“I thought to myself: 'What have I gotten into?’" Hernandez said. "But I really liked the program. The class was nice and small. We all worked easily together, and the instructor was so helpful and supportive.
“This program changed my life. It opened doors for me, and now I am a machine apprentice. I feel like now I have a career, not just a job.”
The grant will also allow GRCC to expand efforts to connect residents with entry-level jobs in health care.
As part of the career training project, GRCC will also work with community partners that include the Urban League, the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, LINC UP, the Literacy Center of West Michigan, the West Michigan Health Employers Career Council and Holland Home.
“We work with many partners across West Michigan, which allow us to create sustainable and comprehensive programs that just make sense,” Pink said. “We are all working toward the same goal — improving the quality of life of adults, families and children in our neighborhoods by providing skills that lead to living-wage employment — and this initiative will bring us all closer to that goal.”