Economic Development, Higher Education, and Human Resources

GRCC workforce training generates $423M

Study shows programs support 4,465 jobs in Kent and Ottawa counties.

November 16, 2018
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Grand Rapids Community College’s noncredit workforce training programs in 2016 had an estimated $423.4-million economic impact and supported about 4,465 jobs in Kent and Ottawa counties.

Using data from the 2016-17 fiscal year, the Moscow, Idaho-based labor market data analyzation company Emsi examined the impact created by alumni income and the companies attracting and expanding in part because of training programs.

Broken down, the study showed Kent and Ottawa counties experienced a $293.7-million economic impact from companies that were attracted to the region or expanded due in part to GRCC training opportunities, supporting about 2,867 jobs.

Past and present students of the programs generated $129.7 million in added income to the region, supporting about 1,598 jobs. These numbers represent students’ higher earnings, increased output of businesses that employed them and the resulting money spent at other businesses.

The impact calculated in this latest study is in addition to the 2017 report that showed GRCC’s credit programs add $447 million annually to the economies of Kent and Ottawa counties. 

The study also highlighted GRCC’s 23 workforce training grants awarded between 2014 and 2018, providing $16.6 million in added income and supporting 285 jobs over the next five years, which is when the money primarily will be spent.

GRCC said 43 percent of the grant funding will be used to cover program tuition, while the remaining funds will be used for payroll, capital items and other supplies. GRCC estimates at least 15 full-time and 137 part-time faculty and staff will be employed through the grant funding.

GRCC President Bill Pink said the workforce programs are part of a culture of lifelong learning, with many adults returning to learn new skills as technology grows.

He said the programs lead many students to apprenticeships and give further training opportunities to companies’ employees. Many students also earn certificates from workforce programs and then earn associate and four-year degrees. 

GRCC has partnerships with nearly 421 area employers to provide noncredit training, with 61 participating in customized programs.

Carlos Piggee, a high-performance team coordinator for the automotive electronics supplier Johnson Controls, said this relationship with GRCC has “played a key role” in the company’s growth.

Johnson Controls has sent more than 100 employees from its Grand Rapids office to train at GRCC, also working with students in the college’s apprenticeship programs.

He said the company utilizes the Michigan New Jobs Training Grant to provide many of those opportunities.

“Honestly speaking, GRCC makes me look like a hero because a lot of times I’m able to send those employees over to GRCC and receive the training that they need,” Piggee said.

GRCC has seen an increase in the number of students enrolled in these programs.

The college has 17,194 students in workforce training, continuing education and professional development, and customized training programs — up 53 percent from the 2016-17 school year.

Also, 202 students are in 612-hour job training programs, up 35 percent. Nearly 350 students are in noncredit electrical apprenticeship programs.

The top industry impacted by GRCC’s noncredit alumni is manufacturing, representing 64 percent of the noncredit alumni impact.

One person benefitting from the program is Elizabeth Pena, a student in the GRCC medical assistant apprenticeship program. A mother of three, she said she was “lost” and unsure of what to do before joining.

“This program caught my attention because I was able to work, support my family and continue my education without having to feel as if I was being held back due to not making enough money,” Pena said.

She said joining the program was a risk, not knowing whether she would finish or what would come of it.

Pena is set to graduate at the end of this semester.

Data used in the study came from several sources, including GRCC academic and financial reports, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, and outputs from Emsi’s multi-regional social accounting matrix model.

Emsi economic consultant Susan Hackett said the company customized a new methodology for this study.

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