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News & Press: Chamber News

Going PRO Talent Fund Helps Lansing Region Businesses Close Skills Gap

Tuesday, June 18, 2019  
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More than $1.5 million awarded to local businesses for skills training

Greater Lansing businesses are enhancing their workforce and combatting the skilled workers shortage by utilizing more than $1.5 million, awarded through the Going PRO Talent Fund, to train employees to gain specialized skills.

“By 2026, there will be 545,000 jobs open in Michigan that require levels of specialized or skilled training,” said Amanda Fischer, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC) communications, policy and talent manager. “Our current talent pools don’t have nearly enough skilled workers to fill open jobs. This fund empowers employers to hire individuals who are ready to learn and ready to work.”

The Talent Fund, formally known as the Skilled Trades Training Fund, was created to assist employers in training, developing and retaining current and newly hired employees. Businesses of all sizes have been utilizing the program since its inception and are seeing real results.

Dart Bank, a private bank headquartered in Mason, Michigan, has applied for state-funded training since the fund was started in 2014 and the Going PRO funding has been a key resource and talent development tool.

Over the years, Dart Bank has offered customer service, time management, sales training and more with the state-funded award and has increased the number of employees participating in the trainings. In 2016, Dart Bank was able to put three employees through IT technical training, and by 2019, they were able to train 24 employees in leadership development, with the help of Lansing Community College’s Business and Community Institute, to hone the skills needed to coach, mentor and engage their employees. 

“We find it extremely important that our staff is well trained and experts in our field,” said Karla Spoor, senior vice president of human resources at Dart Bank. “Clients look to us as the experts and we want to be sure that they are receiving the best care, up-to-date products and services and knowledgeable staff to help them with their financial needs.”

“Training is also valued by employees, as it helps them feel more empowered, engaged and confident as they grow from the knowledge gained – they appreciate that we are investing in them and their future with us.”

Likewise, Peckham Inc., a nonprofit community vocational rehabilitation organization, has participated in the program for more than four years.

“Going PRO funds have allowed us to grow our apprenticeship program,” said Dana Harder, project manager at Peckham. “Apparel manufacturing in the U.S. is increasingly complex. Our customers require highly technical garments and the ability to operate in a low volume/high mix environment.” 

“Over the years the Going PRO program has allowed us to develop and provide customized training and services to more than 130 clients, who are engaged in their work and take pride in their workplace contributions,” said Harder. “This program has enabled us to equip and prepare those we serve with the necessary skills to support business growth while also fitting our unique skill development needs.” 

Another Lansing area business, Hospice of Lansing, a nonprofit community organization, is participating in the Going PRO Talent Fund program for the first time in 2019 and is already seeing a significant impact on their workforce.

Hospice of Lansing is utilizing the Talent Fund to focus on leadership development as well as process implementation.

“Healthcare is an ever-changing field and organizations need to adapt their business education models to provide the skills necessary for their employees to thrive,” said Andi Earl, director of operations at Hospice of Lansing. “Through the Going PRO program, our team completed on-site courses customized by the Business and Community Institute at Lansing Community College. The education delivered in these courses helped our team identify process improvements and strengthened the key leadership skills. The tools and skills developed through the Going PRO program aid our organization in providing the high-quality patient care our community deserves.”

Of the more than $1.5 million awarded to Lansing area businesses, $825,137 of it was secured by 15 Chamber members, including: Dart Bank, Peckham, Inc., Dowding Industries, Spartan Motors, Bekum America Corporation, Cameron Tool Corporation, Hospice of Lansing, KTM Industries, Neogen, Niowave, Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center – URA, Peckham Diversified, Piper & Gold Public Relations, Sparrow Health System and Triterra.

“Our members have said for years that talent and workforce development is the top issue facing their business,” said Michelle Rahl, LRCC vice president of business development. “The Chamber is encouraged to see the state is placing a strong emphasis on cultivating and retaining talent and providing the resources businesses need to continue to grow and thrive.”

Overwhelmingly, businesses in the Lansing region listed talent attraction, development and retention as the top issue facing their business according to the Chamber’s annual membership survey. Sixty-eight percent of businesses listed talent and workforce development as the number one public policy issue facing their business.

“We, as a community and state, have struggled to find ways to help businesses attract and retain talent, but the Talent Fund is doing just that,” said Fischer. “The Chamber is fully supportive and appreciative of this program. It’s our hope that the state will continue to see how valuable this program is to our businesses, as well as our regional and state economies.”

“We have been very thankful for the awards that we have received,” said Spoor. “We have gained valuable knowledge through the training, and I would highly recommend to any business that they get involved and apply for these opportunities.”

The Talent Investment Agency (TIA) distributes the funds to Lansing businesses through Capital Area Michigan Works!. For more information on the Going PRO Talent Fund, visit camw.org/employers/find-training-grants.


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