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Talent

From workforce shortages and supply chain snags to rising costs of raw materials, the manufacturing industry has certainly faced a multi-pronged set of issues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a company that manufactures metal products and assemblies, Grandville-based Jireh Metal Products Inc. was certainly not immune. MiBiz caught up with President and CEO Michael Davenport to learn how the pandemic has shaped the way Jireh will do business in the future.

Tyler Kutt took the reins of Grand Rapids-based web and mobile app developer Grand Apps at the beginning of 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to disrupt life and the economy. Prior to purchasing the company with longtime employee Brandon Ross, Kutt served as head of marketing for the business. With five employees that have been working remotely since the pandemic began, Kutt spoke with MiBiz about COVID-inspired lessons he has learned so far in his tenure as co-owner. 

Shannon Cohen works through her consulting firm, Shannon Cohen Inc., to help companies across a range of industries improve leadership practices around equity and wellness. But Cohen wears many hats as an author, podcaster and owner of a product line called Tough Skin, Soft Heart, as well as the leader of the Rockstar Woman Brunch Experience. Cohen shared her insights on the labor challenges many industries face right now, and some of the ways companies have found success in leadership practices during the pandemic.

About 500 people have gone through leadership coaching offered by Leading by Design, a Zeeland-based business that Rodger Price formed in January 2014 to groom a new generation of business leaders in West Michigan and help existing executives improve. Believing the region can become a “hotbed of the best leaders in the country,” Price aims to graduate 1,000 people from the year-long program by 2027. He recently spoke with MiBiz about his outlook on future leaders.

Brent Gibson, president of Grand Rapids-based Construction Simplified, said his leadership has been tested by COVID-19 and all of its repercussions for the construction industry, but he believes the pandemic has made him a better leader. Gibson has found that clear communication with his team has been a crucial aspect to leading effectively. In a year filled with many obstacles for the construction industry, Construction Simplified is branching out into new projects, planning to grow its small firm of 10 people, and move into a new office space. 

Last month, Autocam Medical Devices LLC graduated its fourth class of CNC machinist apprentices under a program that’s meant to lure young professionals to the skilled trades. John C. Kennedy, president and CEO of the contract manufacturer of medical devices, is using the program to grow his talent pipeline while the company is on the verge of a major expansion. Autocam Medical is in the process of building an additional 100,000-square-foot facility in Kentwood that will support 250 new jobs and roughly double the company’s workforce. Kennedy recently talked with MiBiz about building a talent pool amid an ongoing skilled trades shortage, as well as his leadership principles that helped guide the company through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has issued more than $2 million in grants designed to build a more robust pipeline between adult education and workforce training programs and local businesses that are looking to hire.

College seniors graduating this winter or next spring can expect a stronger job market than last year as they seek to join the workforce.

Businesses in all industry sectors are exhausting potential avenues for talent as they struggle to fill their workforces. Many employers have finally turned their attention to a demographic that Wendy Falb has promoted for decades.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Trina Edmondson rarely got calls from employers interested in hiring a person with a disability.

Tim Gortsema refers to last year’s American Hockey League season as “the stubby season.”

Jen Bradshaw had a difficult time finding software and application developers even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

Michigan’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion and submission rates decreased for the second year in a row by nearly 5 percent, indicating lower college enrollment and ongoing challenges for the already sparse talent pipeline. 

Muskegon Community College President Dale Nesbary plans to retire at the end of the coming academic year. Nesbary is set to retire in June 2022, ending 12 years as president of MCC and 44 years in higher education and research.

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has received a $10 million federal grant that will go toward an apprenticeship program for more than 1,640 workers.

GRAND RAPIDS — The Cornerstone University board of trustees announced today that it has named Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño as the 12th president in the private, faith-based school’s history.

Dr. Joe Stowell presided over his last commencement at Cornerstone University on May 8 after more than a decade overseeing substantial campus growth and investment. In his 13-year tenure, Cornerstone invested millions of dollars in new campus facilities and expanded program offerings, including the new $3.5 million Mary De Witt Center of Nursing in April and a planned bachelor of science in nursing.

OWOSSO — A $25 million grant from a California-based augmented and virtual reality solutions provider will allow Baker College to use the advanced technology across all six of its Michigan campuses and other learning centers.

Ryan Bennett used to be bothered by apprentices staring at their phones while on the job. Now, he lets it slide.

GRAND RAPIDS — After an economically grim 2020, Grand Rapids event and entertainment officials say they’re optimistic about pent-up demand, COVID-19 vaccines and a new standard of hybrid in-person and virtual programs.

West Michigan community colleges saw thousands of applications through the Futures for Frontliners program unveiled by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year to cover tuition for workers deemed essential during COVID-19 shutdown orders.

As state employment forecasts show more than three-quarters of the top 50 high-demand, high-paying jobs in Michigan through 2028 require at least a four-year degree, public financial support for Michigan universities lags many other states.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has sent two proposed budget plans to state lawmakers this year that maintain or expand funding for skilled trades training as well as introduce new talent development programs.

When coaching business leaders about concepts like talent development and growing an operation from the ground up, Elizabeth Rolinski has the professional experience that commands credibility. Rolinski spent more than a decade working in lithium-ion battery operations at Johnson Controls International PLC and later for Clarios, a former subsidiary that spun out of the international conglomerate and is now a subsidiary of Brookfield Business Partners.

Advocates for people with disabilities are hopeful that the work from home trend spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic will make employers more open to accommodations workers might need in a post-pandemic workplace.

ALLENDALE — Grand Valley State University has announced a new tuition-free program for low-income students in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Grand Traverse, Calhoun and Wayne counties.

MUSKEGON — Even before colleges started offering curricula centered on cybersecurity, Susan Rhem-Westhoff was exploring that realm with her students at the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center.

Davenport University has appointed Amy Mansfield as the new dean of the Donald W. Maine College of Business and the College of Technology.

Like many in higher education, Western Michigan University moved fast to shift thousands of classes online when the COVID-19 pandemic hit this spring. Some of the changes made during the crisis will stick, according to President Edward Montgomery, who joined WMU in 2017. Montgomery served as chief economist and deputy labor secretary in President Bill Clinton’s administration and was also on President Barack Obama’s auto task force. Prior to joining WMU, he was the founding dean and professor of economics at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

KALAMAZOO — The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is one of just 14 small art museums across the country to receive significant grant funding for maintaining operations as COVID-19 challenges continue.

COMSTOCK PARK — The West Michigan Whitecaps have moved one spot closer to the Detroit Tigers within a shifting hierarchy of Minor League Baseball.

KALAMAZOO — After originally planning to kick off the 2020-21 season on Jan. 15, the Kalamazoo Wings today announced that it will suspend operations and forgo the entire year of hockey.

Initiatives at Grand Valley State University and Davenport University seek to help veterans earn a college degree after their military service.

College students graduating this fall or next spring should expect to face a softer job market than in the past several years as a result of the pandemic-related economic downturn.

The nomination period has opened for the 8th annual M&A Deals & Dealmaker Awards from MiBiz. 

 global mixed martial arts organization with direct ties to West Michigan is poised to return from a years-long hiatus on Nov. 11 with a night of fights in Atlanta.

BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State University has landed a nearly $670,000 federal grant to expand virtual-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming for rural high school students.

It’s not enough to announce diversity, equity and inclusion hiring commitments, it takes leadership teams that reflect more cultures.

GRAND RAPIDS — The city of Grand Rapids is developing an inclusion program meant to encourage the contracting of minority-owned, women-owned and micro-local businesses in projects involving public investment through tax incentives. 

Keli Christopher founded the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit STEM Greenhouse six years ago to help K-12 students — in particular, children of color — along an academic path more comfortable than she experienced. As the first Black person to receive a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois, Christopher endured a challenging and isolated path through higher education. Her mission now is to increase students’ exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the greater Grand Rapids area, where she still sees a diversity gap in STEM education. Earlier this month, Christopher was a featured speaker at the Southeast Grand Rapids Community and Economic Development Conference hosted by the Grand Rapids African-American Community Task Force. In an interview with MiBiz, Christopher discussed inequities in the nonprofit sector as well as the ongoing barriers to engaging more non-white students in STEM education.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today rolled out a $24 million initiative to provide tuition for workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic who lack a secondary education and want to earn an associate’s degree or professional certification.

GRAND RAPIDS — Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. is reallocating $50,000 it initially budgeted for ArtPrize 2020 toward a new event tentatively planned for September. 

GRAND RAPIDS — After considering modifications to enable more social distancing and focus on outdoor spaces, the ArtPrize board of directors announced today it was canceling this year’s event as the nonprofit re-evaluates its future.

KALAMAZOO — The founding dean at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine in Kalamazoo plans to retire early next year.

Originally scheduled to kick off the 2020 season on April 9, the West Michigan Whitecaps remain in limbo along with 140 other Minor League Baseball teams across the country.

ALLENDALE — Grand Valley State University raised $130 million in the Laker Effect capital campaign.

GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids Community College is one of 20 colleges nationwide to receive a grant from the United States Department of Labor to provide at-risk youth with job skills training and other educational opportunities.

new program aims to give frontline workers in the COVID-19 pandemic a pathway into higher education.