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
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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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