Southeast Michigan is facing a myriad of challenges. Underemployment and unemployment are far too high as there are too few jobs for the number of people who need them in the region. People with a wide range of education and experience are having difficulty finding good jobs. And finally, talented, educated young people are leaving.
NEI’s Governing Council adopted a Workforce framework at its December 2009 meeting that is designed to help address these issues. NEI’s approach is to be a catalyst for change.
NEI recognizes that there is a great deal of public, private and philanthropic funding already focusing on workforce. These funds are used to help people obtain education, training and other assistance. The current system has been challenged by the economic upheaval in our region. Policy leaders and program operators are facing daunting challenges. NEI’s strategies focus on:
- Supporting Strategies and Programs That Build On A Sectoral Approach To Employment - NEI embraces a sectoral approach as a central element of its overall workforce strategy. Ultimately, it is hoped that this direction will not only assist individual workers and companies in meeting their current needs, but will also contribute to strengthening the economy of southeast Michigan, a goal that is at the core of the NEI mission.
- NEI has awarded grants in four sectors:
- Advanced Manufacturing to the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center,
- Alternative Energy to NextEnergy,
- Defense and Homeland Security to Macomb Community College and Automation Alley, and
- Transportation Distribution and Logistics (TDL) to the Detroit Regional Chamber.
- A sector focused approach in health care is under development.
- Improving the Coordination and Effectiveness of the Regional Workforce System - Economic development and workforce systems have historically operated on parallel tracks. This lack of connectivity must change. And that change has already begun. There are cities and regions that are implementing innovative and forward-thinking approaches that break down traditional barriers between workforce, education and economic development and build collaborative strategies that respond to the increasingly complex needs of both workers and employers. NEI’s efforts focus on:
- Information and Research - Across southeast Michigan there is a continual need for better information focusing on the characteristics of the employers as well as the people who live in the region. The goal of this strategy is to improve the information required to make informed decisions, as well as to create strong strategies.
- Grants have been awarded to
- Macomb Community College to conduct research about defense industry occupations,
- Detriot Renaissance to engage primary life science leaders in the development of a health/life/bio science research strategy.
- Convening Workforce and Employer Leaders - The quality of workforce development programs in the region varies tremendously. A number of funders are supporting national efforts to improve workforce development programs of community colleges, state programs, as well as local providers. NEI will work with its partner funders to build on these efforts. Bringing together parties across workforce, community, and economic development is a priority.
- Policy - Workforce development is impacted by federal, state and local policies. Federal legislation, administrative policies and discretionary funding all are important to the region. The goal is to have federal, state and local policies that support southeast Michigan’s rebirth.
- NEI's suggestions for the reauthorization of the federal Workforce Investment Act
- David Egner's testimony before the Michigan legislature's New Economy Committee
- Matching and Augmenting Foundation, Federal and State Grant Funds for Workforce Development - Numerous organizations across the region apply for and receive federal and state grants. Government funders have stated that philanthropic support increases the likelihood of funding; some proposals require non-governmental match support. The goal is to increase the amount of governmental funding coming to the region as well as to improve its effectiveness.
- NEI supports a grant to allow the participation of Oakland Community College and Washtenaw Communit College in Achieving the Dream.
Across all of these investments, NEI will look for ways to retain and attract educated young talent such as through its grant for the Intern in Michigan program. NEI will also continue to develop its workforce strategies with a focus on investments that can result in more immediate employment.