Michigan's comeback story is more than noteworthy economic statistics and trends. It's about changing lives for the better.
An important part of that is helping people [such as Travis Butler; see his Next America interview] who have long been unable to get a job or to obtain the skills they need to find gainful employment.
That's key. Traditional federal workforce programs focus on training that often has little or no connection to the skills employers need or to real jobs. Here in Michigan, we're flipping that around with a program called Community Ventures where we work directly with employers to ensure that program participants gain high-demand skills and real jobs that set them on a sustainable path to independence.
Michigan boasts a talented and educated workforce. But too many in our state face seemingly insurmountable obstacles to full-time employment, such as a lack of education, job experience, and necessary reading, writing, and technical skills.
Our Community Ventures program works with public and private partners to remove those barriers and provide the tools people need to grow and thrive.
Two years ago, my administration sought partners to create opportunities for these people living in four of our state's most economically distressed communities: Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, and Saginaw.
Community Ventures, administered through the Michigan Economic Development Corp., teams with Michigan Works!, Goodwill, Focus Hope, and others to match eligible employees with employers, who receive a wage reimbursement incentive of up to $5,000 for each employee.
The new employees receive mentoring, literacy support, financial literacy guidance, on-the-job training, and other help so they can improve professionally and develop employment history.
The program works.
Since the program started in autumn 2012, we've placed 1,200 people, earning an average of more than $11.50 an hour. Nearly all of the newly employed are from households living below the poverty level. More than 80 percent of employees hired are retained by employers, who offer new workers job coaching, transportation, child-care assistance, and adult-education courses.
About half the participants are women; 13 percent have a criminal records; 4 percent are veterans; and 3 percent are people with disabilities.
With full-time employment comes a greater degree of independence. Ultimately, workers employed with the help of Community Ventures will rely less on public services such as food and housing assistance, subsidized child care and Medicaid.
Lessening the tax burden on businesses and creating a business-friendly environment are just a few reasons Michigan's economy has recovered the most from the Great Recession. The state's unemployment rate has fallen from 14.2 to the current 8.4 percent.
Clearly, in these challenging times, innovation isn't used solely in the domain of economics. Working together with business and nonprofits, the innovative Community Ventures program is making sure the Michigan Comeback includes all Michigan residents.
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Rick Snyder is Michigan's 48th governor. He is serving his first term as the state chief executive. You can reach his office at 517-335-7858 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find him online at Facebook.com/GovernorRickSnyder or Twitter.com/OneToughNerd.