Michigan’s displaced workers caught in the whirlwind of layoffs can still land on their feet in new careers.
The U.S. Department of Labor will provide up to $38 million of national emergency grants in the coming months to fund job training and career support through the state’s No Worker Left Behind initiative.
The grants will aid 13,300 workers from 24 counties, including Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne.
Among the others are Allegan, Kent, Ottawa, Ingham, Clinton, Eaton, and Oceana counties.
No Worker Left Behind provides two years of tuition assistance to unemployed individuals pursuing jobs in “in-demand” fields such as solar manufacturing and health, said Andy Levin, deputy director of the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.
The initiative covers $5,000 for one year of training or $10,000 for two at community colleges, universities or approved training programs.
“This is money to put more people into in-demand jobs,” Levin said. “There are many thousands of Michiganders who lack the skills necessary to get jobs in this economy. It will be immensely helpful and we’re greatly appreciative.”
No Worker Left Behind also provides services such as interview preparation.
Sharon Parks, president of the Michigan League for Human Services, said any funds the state can procure are “desperately needed.”
“As Michigan is transitioning into a new economy, this kind of assistance is going to be critical so people can get on with their lives,” Parks said. “They have been hard hit by dislocation. The regions that have been targeted are where we’ve seen a large number of plant closings.”
Yet displaced workers interested in health care may have a difficult time finding a place in a cramped nursing market.
As a result of the lagging economy, fewer people are choosing to have elective surgeries and other procedures, which adversely impacts hiring, said Julie Coon, director of Ferris State University’s School of Nursing.
Nurse training is in high demand, with two to three applicants competing for every slot in her 60-student program, Coon said.
In December, one student from the No Worker Left Behind initiative will graduate from the Ferris program.
“I can’t take an unlimited number. All nursing programs around the state have increased their enrollments,” Coon said. “We’re going to help people retrain for jobs that are relevant.”
The baby-boomer generation still makes up the majority of health care employees, so there could be sudden demand for health workers when they retire, Coon said.
“The biggest component is still the baby boomer population,” Coon said. “When there is a softening in the market, we’ll see a mass exodus in the field when people retire.”
Even with thousands of workers looking for green jobs, oversaturation won’t become an issue because the industry accounts for only 3 percent of the state’s private sector, Levin said.
Between 2005 and 2007, the state’s 358 “green firms” added 2,500 jobs, with 700 of them at 60 companies that started during that period.
No Worker Left Behind shows potential businesses that the state is serious about educating its work force, Levin said.
“It says to businesses that they can add employees and we’ll have the resources to train them. That’s what we need most of all,” Levin said. “We’re trying to transform Michigan’s work force.”
There are currently 109,000 green jobs in the state.
Samantha Keeney, program manager for the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association in Dimondale, said the renewable energy industry still has a lot of room for growth.
“It’s one of those fields that is garnering a lot of publicity right now,” Keeney said. “A lot of people are looking into it.”