Wanda M. Stokes, director of the Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA), announced that the agency has been awarded a $3.2 million Trade and Economic Transition National Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL).
The grant will fund a two-year project, in conjunction with the 16 Michigan Works! Agencies across the state, to serve individuals who have been dislocated by a reduction in the number of retail stores and the realignment of the banking industry.
According to the State of Michigan’s labor market information data, the state retail industry’s projected overall growth for the next ten years is -11.1%.
“The grant money will be used to train displaced retail workers in high-demand areas,” Stephanie Beckhorn, Director of TIA’s Workforce Development Agency, said. “Transitioning these workers to high-growth opportunities will improve Michigan’s long-term economic and workforce health as well as allow the state to deliver workforce development services in response to a changing workforce trend.”
Given wage levels and seasonal fluctuations in work hours, it is anticipated there will be a need for a variety of supportive services, including transportation, child care, work clothing and training-related expenses. Dislocated workers supported by grant funding will receive a full array of services provided through the Michigan Works! Agencies.
“This grant provides a great opportunity to reach out to those individuals who have been laid off and promote the services available through Michigan Works! and encourage them to pursue careers in high-demand fields,” Beckhorn said. “There are many work-based learning opportunities, apprenticeships, and classroom training available that will result in increasing rapid re-employment in high-demand careers.”
The high-demand fields the grant money will be focused on include: information technology, healthcare, business, advanced manufacturing, and professional trades. The customer service skills that the displaced workers obtained from their former retail employment translate well to many of these fields.
Additionally, TIA will use $300,000 of the grant money to partner with the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, to develop a proactive predictive analytics tool to provide the Michigan Works! agencies with customized information about employment prospects and the effectiveness of services. The tool will help streamline the delivery of employment-related programs and meet the needs of job seekers and employers more effectively, creating the capacity to handle future job loss in a more effective manner. It will also help Michigan Works! staff more quickly assess and target customer needs through fast analysis of labor market needs, resulting in quicker re-employment.
Oakland County Michigan Works! submitted a letter of support and commitment with the grant application, as their community has lost over 500 retail employee jobs in 2018 thus far from major store closures.
“Segments of the retail industry in Oakland County have been especially hard hit, with generational retailers scaling back or going out of business altogether,” Jennifer Llewellyn, Director of Oakland County Michigan Works!, said. “This grant allows us to target these displaced workers and provide them with the necessary training to upgrade their skills and transition to high-demand occupations.”