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Gov. Rick Snyder talks with business and education leaders about his Marshall Plan for talent. Gov. Rick Snyder talks with business and education leaders about his Marshall Plan for talent. COURTESY PHOTO

Gov. Snyder calls for more employer involvement in new workforce development initiative

BY Friday, March 09, 2018 01:28pm

ZEELAND — As Gov. Rick Snyder works to secure a $100 million commitment for his “Marshall Plan for Talent,” he also wants to tear down silos between the education and business communities.

The term-limited Republican governor, now in his final year in office, views the plan as a “capstone catalyst” in his efforts to reshape the state’s workforce development strategy.

Unveiled late last month and named after the Marshall Plan that helped to rebuild Europe in the wake of World War II, Snyder’s plan calls for a one-time $100 million allocation of funds already on the state’s balance sheet to be used for competency-based certifications in professional skilled trades, overhauling the state’s K-12 curriculum, as well as scholarships and stipends to help with career navigation.

The proposed $100 million Marshall Plan for Talent still requires legislative approval and would be in addition to the more than $225 million the state already dedicates to workforce development.

In an exclusive interview with MiBiz on Friday morning at the headquarters of Zeeland-based Gentex Corp., Snyder said that under the Marshall Plan, employers would “play a larger role than they play today” in terms of broad-based workforce development and developing skills he believes would be transferable to several different career paths.

Snyder visited the company today to tour its headquarters facility and participate in a panel discussion with a variety of business and education leaders from around West Michigan on how the various stakeholders can better work together on talent development.

“They’re a role model that sort of fits right into the Marshall Plan, where employers are part of the solution and where we’re all working together to do lifelong learning the right way and help people succeed,’ Snyder said of Gentex, citing the automotive supplier’s apprenticeship model and tuition reimbursement program.

The state projects that Michigan employers will have more than 811,000 jobs to fill through 2024 in growing sectors like I.T. and computer science, manufacturing, health care and other professional trades.

Snyder believes the plan can secure bipartisan support. However, it also has raised questions, particularly with regards to striking a balance between gaining the skills needed to compete in an increasingly mobile workforce, while also teaching the skills employers currently need, as Crain’s Detroit Business reported earlier this week.

However, Snyder said he believes the Marshall Plan acknowledges that balancing act better than the state’s other workforce development initiatives.

“There is a balance, but what I’d say is this plan actually addresses that better than any plan that exists today,” Snyder said. “It’s all about lifelong learning and how you can accumulate competency-based certificates and recognition in some fashion that you can grow over a lifetime. It’s not like you just get one certificate and you’re done for your life. It’s how they build on each other. They can be hard skills, soft skills. It can be art history.”

Earlier this week, Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable, released its annual assessment of the state’s economic performance, as MiBiz  reported at the time.

The report showed that while Michigan has made great strides, it still sits largely in the middle of the pack in key metrics like household income and job creation.

Doug Rothwell, the organization’s president and CEO, applauded the governor’s efforts with the proposed Marshall Plan, noting that much of Snyder’s first term was spent trying to fix problems. Now that the state is back in a period of slow growth, Rothwell and other business leaders view it as the right time to continue pushing forward.

“I think (the Marshall Plan is) just a reflection of where we are, but it’s also important to remember … you can’t rest on your laurels,” Rothwell said. “We’re still middle of the pack. We should feel good, but don’t feel too good that we don’t do anything.”

According to Snyder, his plan ensures that the state focuses on a key barrier to growth: talent.

“The biggest constraint on our continued growth is the need for talent,” Snyder said of the state’s current economic headwinds. “As a practical matter, what we need to do to keep our economy growing is we’ve got unmet demand for people from our employers. If we can fill that demand, they’re going to grow.”

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