Survey says old Michigan jobs training program worked

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s No Worker Left Behind program was a wildly ambitious effort to retrain more than 100,000 laid-off or low-income workers for new jobs as the state’s manufacturing base imploded.

Although the $500 million program faced criticism for its effectiveness during its three-year run between 2007 and 2010, a new survey has found that thousands who participated found it valuable in finding and performing new jobs.

The survey of 4,231 people who participated in No Worker Left Behind found that nearly two-thirds of those who completed their training financed by the program had found employment.

“Given what was happening in Michigan’s economy at the time, that’s a phenomenal percentage,” said Larry Good, chairman of the Corporation for a Skilled Work Force, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit that conducted the survey.

Only 7 percent had dropped out training as of 2010 when the program was winding down. Fifty-five percent said the training helped them find jobs and 58 percent said they found it helpful in performing their jobs.

Corporation for a Skilled Workforce helped the Granholm administration design and implement No Worker Left Behind. It conducted the survey to determine what public policy lessons could be learned form the program.

“No Worker Left Behind became perhaps the largest concentrated investment in adult worker retraining seen in at least a generation,” Good said. “The real value of the program was that it showed Michigan citizens believe that getting more education and skills are important to succeed in a knowledge-based economy, he said.

For decades, an auto factory job that required little education was the ticket to a middle-class lifestyle. Some experts say Michigan has been slow to adopt what Good called “an ethic of learning.”

The survey of No Worker Left Behind participants shows attitudes about the value of education are changing, according to Good.

“We’ve got a work force in Michigan that is hungry to upgrade its skills,” he said.

No Worker Left Behind was designed to provide training assistance to 100,000 laid-off and low-income workers. But 162,000 people signed up, straining resources.

It ended in 2010 after federal worker training funds dried up and Granholm left office. Michigan had received millions of dollars in extra training funds in the final years of Granholm’s term because of the state’s dire economy.

Good said upgrading the skills of America’s workforce has been put at risk by budget fights in Washington that have drastically cut training funds.

And Congress has been failed for a decade to pass a reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act that provides states with most of their training funds.

“We should not forget the current work force,” Good said. “It’s not just 18 year-olds we need to worry about. It’s also the 35-year-olds who are making the transition to a changing economy.”

Rick Haglund has had a distinguished career covering Michigan business, economics and government at newspapers throughout the state. Most recently, at Booth Newspapers he wrote a statewide business column and was one of only three such columnists in Michigan. He also covered the auto industry and Michigan’s economy extensively.

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Charles Richards
Thu, 08/08/2013 - 11:49am
This article makes the program sound very successful, which raises the question of what were the criticisms about its effectiveness? Certainly, training and education are they keys to creating the human capital that is necessary for creating good paying jobs. And it is encouraging that the program was over subscribed. It is a good sign that “We’ve got a work force in Michigan that is hungry to upgrade its skills.” But I'm curious about the survey. Obviously, 4,231 is an adequate sample, but how was it chosen? Was it a random sample?
Oscar Outlier
Sat, 08/10/2013 - 9:11pm
I wonder how the Ann Arbor based Corporation for a Skilled Work Force feels about Gov. Snyder's Shifting Gears program? like a lot of expensive time, taxpayer money and partisan politics is being used to prop up a small, privatized job retraining program that almost no one in the COME BACK STATE knows anything about. MEDC boasts that the two-year old, sixteen week career transition course is valued at $5000, yet each unemployed or underemployed attendee has to pay $550 in advance to attend. And, to make matter worse, the thirteen cohorts completed since 2011 are ONLY conducted in Lansing. PureMichigan's workforce may be hungry to upgrade their job skills, but how many can realistically afford it under the Snyder administration. How much time, effort and expense do you think a financially strapped blue-collar worker or once retired union pensioner in the bankrupt city of Detroit, a resident in Central Michigan (or worse, the eastern U.P.), or struggling single mother of school-age kids can shell out every week to travel hundred of miles every week to just to spend three days roll playing in Lansing? It appears the only ones becoming enriched by effort are the happy folks a Sensei Change Associates who were hired by MEDC to operate the small but financially lucrative program.