Guest column: Michigan Works agencies fill job slots

By Christine Quinn and Charlotte "Charlie" Mahoney/Michigan Works Association

When reading the recent article in Bridge about both perceptions and realities regarding our state’s workforce development efforts, we remembered advice the 19th century abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher once offered his colleagues, “hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself.”

On behalf of the member agencies of the Michigan Works Association working in communities acrossMichigan, we make no excuses.Michigan’s economy is in transition. Our Michigan Works system must transition as well -- and is doing so, with a pledge to hold our work to the highest standard for the people looking to hire, the people looking for work and the people paying the bills.

In recent years, the local member agencies of the Michigan Works Association have set out to significantly and substantially refocus our model. As comments in the Bridge article show, today, Michigan Works is focusing on meeting the needs of Michigan job makers, not simply on the job applicant. It is an approach that Gov. Rick Snyder calls a “demand-driven employment strategy"; one that trains and places workers in growing and important sectors like manufacturing, energy, health care, information technology and agriculture. Our dramatic change of course in recent years is what the governor recognized when he cited the strength and importance of Michigan Works last month during his major policy address on work-force development.

We are proactively training, educating and preparing job hunters for the jobs of tomorrow -- the type of jobs that are in demand here in Michigan.

And, we are seeing successes across the state. As part of the national Workforce Investment Act, Michigan Works is working every day to retrain displaced workers and connect them with those in-demand jobs. Our agencies

successfully place 94.9 percent of those workers in a new job, by far the highest rate in the nation and dramatically outpacing the national average of 74.8 percent. Similarly, we scored a top-of-the-class 95 percent satisfaction rating from employers -- job makers -- using Michigan Works to identify and hire new workers under the program.

We are leaner, more efficient and more effective than ever. Despite impressions left by the Bridge article, Michigan Works is -- and always has been -- subject to intense state monitoring and fiscal oversight three times each year, in addition to strict annual federal monitoring under the Workforce Investment Act.  The Michigan Works System also actively monitors the programs and fiscal responsibilities of all subcontractors to ensure they are in compliance with federal and state regulations.

The transformation is far from complete, but we’ve started to see results in the form of filled high-skill job openings and changed lives. Over the last year, local agencies worked with high-tech manufacturers, hospitals and care centers from Grand Rapids to Saginaw, Escanaba to St. Joseph and everywhere in between to fill vacant, high-skill engineer, high-skill nurse, nurse’s aide, pharmacist, lab technician and prosthetic technician positions, among others. 

The Michigan Works mission was to fill the need of a job maker with a high-skill opening by identifying potential employees, training them, equipping them and partnering with them throughout the education process before placing them in their new career.

As Michiganand Michigan Works continue to transition economically, we will be the last to offer excuses. We will also be the first to acknowledge our work is an important tool for job makers and job seekers and that our work isn’t done.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 01/10/2012 - 9:35am
Good for you for standing up for things which seem to be going right within Michigan Works! I was very impressed with the 94.9 % placement rate for an apparent select portion of those seen by you and/or your subcontracting organizations! Could you please provide additional information on this record, or these people within the context of the entire program as audited by the State of Michigan? Is this one segment or sub program, or were 94.9% of all people seen by Michigan Works placed into jobs? If available, what was the cost to taxpayers for each of these jobs, and how is it calculated? Thank you for doing what you do to advance people in our state!
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 4:05pm
Although I am grateful to Michigan Works for helping to offset my tuition as I transition to anew career. My wife and I have not had any job leads sent our way by MIWrks in over two years. In my opinion, there are few employers hiring older workers regardless of their experience. Recent college graduates will get the nod over someone that is retrained or applying to highly competitive programs such as nursing or PA.
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 5:49pm
Throughout the entire article it talks about highly skilled people being placed in jobs. Even Joe who trained for a new position can't find a job. My son did the same thing...went to school to retrain for a new career and no one would hire him (lack of experience) and he is only 37 years old. And yes, if you are an older worker, jobs are just not available to you. You are looked on as a liability. It is cheaper to hire young people. Can't see where Micigan Works does much for the older workers. Obviously, employers are not looking our way either.
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 8:43pm
Congratulations on your success. My experience as employer has not matched that success, so I use Craiglist (I did again today). The applicants I get from Craigslist actually read the opportunity being opened and don't fill my mail with resumes that by any stretch would fit.
Thu, 03/01/2012 - 10:06am
Yeah, yeah, Michigan is trying sooo hard to attract new people, meanwhile they have shackled the legs of many of it's current citizens with the driver responsibility law that it's far from funny. I hunted for two years for a job that didn't require me to drive and yet when I left the state I had a job in three weeks. If I were hunting for a job in Michigan now, I would use it to get out of the state!
Thu, 03/01/2012 - 10:09am
Oh and by the way Michigan, I will be starting multiple businesses of my own and I promise to send you my earnings statements to show you what taxes I pay to another state!