Michigan has plenty of jobs and job seekers. The problem is workers are not getting the skills and training needed to qualify for open posts. And that hurts our economy, according to Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Joined by a bipartisan group of legislators, business, education, and labor leaders to announce their support for House and Senate bills creating the MI Opportunity Scholarship and Michigan Reconnect Program, the governor declared a possible end to the skills gap.
The fix? Two bills aimed at amping up community college attendance and participation in free job skills-training programs:
SB 267, introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), and HB 4464, introduced by Reps. Kennedy, Shannon, Brenda Carter, Koleszar, Stone, Pagan and Gay-Dagnogo, will establish the MI Opportunity Scholarship. The scholarship will ensure universal access to community college for every student in Michigan and bring down the cost of a four-year university for every low- and middle-income Michigan student who gets a B average in high school.
SB 268, introduced by Senator Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), and HB 4456, introduced by Reps. Frederick, Anthony, VanSingel, Kennedy, Calley, Tate, Shannon and Markkanen, will establish the Michigan Reconnect Program. The program will provide free skills-training programs for adults at community colleges to fill the tens of thousands of jobs currently in demand from Michigan businesses.
“These pathways will ensure every Michigander has a path to a good job so they can build a life for themselves right here in Michigan,” says Whitmer. “They’ll ensure that our businesses can attract the talent they need to thrive in their communities, and ensure that more people will want to move to our state to start their families. I’m proud to stand with members of both parties in the Legislature and business and labor leaders as we ensure every Michigander has a path to success.”
The bills will help students access the skills they need to get ahead, according to Sen. Ananich, who says the MI Opportunity Scholarship will send a message to students and families that there are multiple paths to get a good job here in Michigan from technical certificates, associate degrees in applied fields, bachelor’s degress or beyond.
“We’re ready to help them find the path that works for them,” says Ananich.
“The Michigan Reconnect Program is critical in ensuring we can attract businesses to Michigan and grow our economy,” says Sen. Horn. “I’m excited to work with Governor Whitmer to close the skills gap and connect Michigan businesses with the talent they need. This program will finally help us fill the 10,000 jobs currently in demand from Michigan businesses.”
“As a former adult learner myself, I know how important it is to ensure that the thousands of residents who have made progress toward degrees or credentials are able to complete their education,” says Rep. Frederick. “The Reconnect Initiative offers an exciting pathway to educational attainment which helps develop a more highly skilled workforce.”
“Every student in Michigan has the right to a world-class education, no matter the path their journey takes them on,” says Rep. Kennedy.“This legislation will encourage more young people to take the next step to stackable credentials and a livable wage and renew our commitment to unlocking the potential of every Michigan student.”
“The Michigan Education Association is proud to support these initiatives because right now, not enough students can access pathways to success,” says Michigan Education Association Vice President Chandra Madafferi. “Everyone in Michigan, no matter where they come from, deserves to know that they can get ahead here in our state. The MI Opportunity Scholarship and Michigan Reconnect Program are exactly what we need to ensure all of our students can get a good job so they can support themselves and their families here in our state.”
“Right now, Michigan businesses are struggling to find the talent they need to compete in our state,” says Michigan Chamber President and CEO Rich Studley. “These programs will help connect our members with a talented workforce so we can grow our economy and ensure families can get ahead. I’m eager to work with Governor Whitmer and everyone else who wants to help grow our businesses here in Michigan.”
“Small businesses here in Michigan need to be connected to a talented workforce to succeed in their communities,” says Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley. “SBAM is proud to support these initiatives because they’ll grow our workforce and give our small business owners the support they need to thrive here in Michigan.”
Representatives from fifteen business, labor, education, and advocacy organizations joined Governor Whitmer for the announcement, including Business Leaders for Michigan, the Michigan Chamber, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Grand Rapids Chamber, the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Michigan Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Michigan Community College Association, Michigan College Access Network, and more.
Editor’s Note: SB 267, SB 268, HB 4464, and HB 4456 were introduced on April 16, 2019