The Grand Rapids Chamber recently visited with members of congress in Washington D.C. in collaboration with Business Leaders United – an organization dedicated to advocating for workforce development. Over 20 states were represented at the annual meeting.
As the state lead for the segment of the National Skills Coalition, the Grand Rapids Chamber met with representatives and senators to advocate for an increase in federal funding for Michigan’s workforce development programs and grants.
Federal funding is at an all-time low for workforce development programs, making it difficult for companies to find and hire the qualified talent that they need. These types of programs are critical for training new and existing talent, especially when these employees need certifications such as tech training or special abilities in the skilled trades.
Funding for these workforce development programs peaked in 2001 and has decreased steadily in recent years, making it more difficult for states to provide these programs.
Moved by our Members
To emphasize the importance of such initiatives, the Chamber team was joined by member Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works!, to share direct accounts of how this funding will benefit our region.
“We’ve seen federal funding for workforce development decrease substantially over the years, and with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time to reinvest is now,” says Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works! “We need the federal government to recognize the labor crisis and invest critical funds that will help people gain the necessary skills that they need to be successful in this economy.”
Maas’ comments reflected a common experience many West Michigan business owners are hoping to change.
“What we’re hearing from many of our members right now is that we don’t have enough qualified people,” says Nate Henschel, Director of Government Affairs. “There are roughly 11 million vacancies in our workforce, and 6 million people not currently employed. This federal funding will make it easier for individuals to reenter the workforce and gain the skills that they need, which will in turn strengthen our economy and benefit the entire region.”
About Workforce Development
Workforce development covers a wide variety of legislation, such as the Workforce and Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), CTE, and adult education state grants. The group also discussed the Jobs Act, which would largely in part provide more flexibility for the use of Federal Pell grants for shorter term training and certification programs. These initiatives as a whole offer a variety of training programs and support services that improve access and affordability of education.
To get more involved in our Workforce Development & Education work, contact Nate Henschel, Director of Government Affairs, at Nate@grandrapids.org