MI Chamber Testifies in Support of Efforts to Close the Skills Gap

June 24, 2019

The Michigan Chamber testified before the Michigan Senate last week in support of efforts get students and the existing workforce the skills, credentials and degrees they need to fill many of the jobs of today and tomorrow.

More than a half-million jobs are expected to be available over the next half decade in Michigan that require more than a high school diploma — and employers have indicated their biggest concern is that we won’t have the talent to fill them. Senate Bills 267 and 268 work to solve this problem by creating three different grant programs:

  • MI Reconnect Grant Program – This workforce development program would provide tuition-free training for non-traditional students who are at least 25 years old and have not yet attained a bachelor’s or associate degree. Tuition could be used by the student to attain a technical credential/certificate, associate degree or transfer to a four-year institution. Students would be eligible to use tuition for programs offered at community colleges, technical programs and other community-based organizations. The goal is to “up skill” these individuals so they are able to fill available jobs.   
  • MI Opportunity Initiative (two-year community college program) – This program would provide a two-year, tuition-free pathway at a public community college for graduating high school students. The credential goal would be a technical certificate, associate degree or transfer to a four-year institution.
  • MI Opportunity Initiative (four-year program) – This program would provide assistance for the first two years at a public or private four-year institution (i.e., up to $2,500 annually for two years). To be eligible for this program, students must graduate from high school with at least a “B” average and have a household income of $80,000 or less.

The Senate bills are modeled after the highly successful Tennessee Promise Scholarship program, which creates pathways for all students, regardless of income, to get the skills or education they need to land a good paying job. Both the Tennessee and Michigan plans are “last-dollar” plans, meaning all other student aid must first be exhausted, including Pell grants and other student assistance awards.

In addition to the Michigan Chamber and others in the business community, this plan has been endorsed by labor unions and a wide range of education and community groups across the state. While we all recognize this can’t be the only solution to Michigan’s talent gap, this plan compliments other efforts in the talent/workforce training space, including the very successful Going PRO Talent Fund. More information on this $30 million employer grant program can be found here.      

Please contact Wendy Block with any questions at (517) 371-2100 or wblock@michamber.com.