How Michigan Has Flipped the Job Switch

Gov. Rick Snyder explains how a partnership with firms in four embattled cities have provided mentoring, literacy support, financial literacy guidance, and jobs to help turn around the state’s economy.

National Journal
Rick Snyder
Feb. 5, 2014, 12:05 a.m.

Michigan’s comeback story is more than note­worthy eco­nom­ic stat­ist­ics and trends. It’s about chan­ging lives for the bet­ter.

An im­port­ant part of that is help­ing people [such as Trav­is But­ler; see his Next Amer­ica in­ter­view] who have long been un­able to get a job or to ob­tain the skills they need to find gain­ful em­ploy­ment.

That’s key. Tra­di­tion­al fed­er­al work­force pro­grams fo­cus on train­ing that of­ten has little or no con­nec­tion to the skills em­ploy­ers need or to real jobs. Here in Michigan, we’re flip­ping that around with a pro­gram called Com­munity Ven­tures where we work dir­ectly with em­ploy­ers to en­sure that pro­gram par­ti­cipants gain high-de­mand skills and real jobs that set them on a sus­tain­able path to in­de­pend­ence.

Michigan boasts a tal­en­ted and edu­cated work­force. But too many in our state face seem­ingly in­sur­mount­able obstacles to full-time em­ploy­ment, such as a lack of edu­ca­tion, job ex­per­i­ence, and ne­ces­sary read­ing, writ­ing, and tech­nic­al skills.

Our Com­munity Ven­tures pro­gram works with pub­lic and private part­ners to re­move those bar­ri­ers and provide the tools people need to grow and thrive.

Two years ago, my ad­min­is­tra­tion sought part­ners to cre­ate op­por­tun­it­ies for these people liv­ing in four of our state’s most eco­nom­ic­ally dis­tressed com­munit­ies: De­troit, Flint, Pon­tiac, and Saginaw.

Com­munity Ven­tures, ad­min­istered through the Michigan Eco­nom­ic De­vel­op­ment Corp., teams with Michigan Works!, Good­will, Fo­cus Hope, and oth­ers to match eli­gible em­ploy­ees with em­ploy­ers, who re­ceive a wage re­im­burse­ment in­cent­ive of up to $5,000 for each em­ploy­ee.

The new em­ploy­ees re­ceive ment­or­ing, lit­er­acy sup­port, fin­an­cial lit­er­acy guid­ance, on-the-job train­ing, and oth­er help so they can im­prove pro­fes­sion­ally and de­vel­op em­ploy­ment his­tory.

The pro­gram works.

Since the pro­gram star­ted in au­tumn 2012, we’ve placed 1,200 people, earn­ing an av­er­age of more than $11.50 an hour. Nearly all of the newly em­ployed are from house­holds liv­ing be­low the poverty level. More than 80 per­cent of em­ploy­ees hired are re­tained by em­ploy­ers, who of­fer new work­ers job coach­ing, trans­port­a­tion, child-care as­sist­ance, and adult-edu­ca­tion courses.

About half the par­ti­cipants are wo­men; 13 per­cent have a crim­in­al re­cords; 4 per­cent are vet­er­ans; and 3 per­cent are people with dis­ab­il­it­ies.

With full-time em­ploy­ment comes a great­er de­gree of in­de­pend­ence. Ul­ti­mately, work­ers em­ployed with the help of Com­munity Ven­tures will rely less on pub­lic ser­vices such as food and hous­ing as­sist­ance, sub­sid­ized child care and Medi­caid.

Lessen­ing the tax bur­den on busi­nesses and cre­at­ing a busi­ness-friendly en­vir­on­ment are just a few reas­ons Michigan’s eco­nomy has re­covered the most from the Great Re­ces­sion. The state’s un­em­ploy­ment rate has fallen from 14.2 to the cur­rent 8.4 per­cent.

Clearly, in these chal­len­ging times, in­nov­a­tion isn’t used solely in the do­main of eco­nom­ics. Work­ing to­geth­er with busi­ness and non­profits, the in­nov­at­ive Com­munity Ven­tures pro­gram is mak­ing sure the Michigan Comeback in­cludes all Michigan res­id­ents.

# # #

Rick Snyder is Michigan’s 48th gov­ernor. He is serving his first term as the state chief ex­ec­ut­ive. You can reach his of­fice at 517-335-7858 or at rick.snyder@michigan.gov. You can find him on­line at Face­book.com/Gov­ernor­Rick­Snyder or Twit­ter.com/OneTough­Nerd.

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