Senate passes expansion of successful jobs training program

LANSING—The Michigan Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would expand the Michigan New Jobs Training Program (MNJTP), a successful statewide initiative established in 2008 to promote job growth and provide skilled training to workers through local community colleges.

The MNJTP lets community colleges statewide create a training pool through flexible financing mechanisms to support employers who are creating jobs or expanding operations in Michigan. Senate Bills 69–71 would remove certain technical restrictions to allow the program to grow.

“The Michigan New Jobs Training Program has been a great success, producing nearly 12,000 new jobs since its inception,” said the sponsor of SB 71, Senate Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township. “The program brings together educators, students eager to be trained for skilled jobs, and employers looking to hire. This package of bills will remove some of the program’s arbitrary restrictions and maximize its job-creation potential.”

Under the program, training for newly hired workers is paid by capturing the state income tax associated with the new employees’ wages and redirecting it to a local college, instead of to the state. These new jobs must pay at least 175 percent of the state minimum wage in effect at the time the agreement is entered into. Once the training costs are paid off, the new employee’s income tax withholding will go to the state and become state revenue.

“The Michigan New Jobs Training Program has done a great job helping job providers collaborate with community colleges to create training programs that connect today’s students with tomorrow’s jobs,” said Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, sponsor of SB 69. “This legislation improves the program by allowing more colleges to participate in the future and by ensuring graduates receive a competitive wage when they enter the workforce.”

The MNJTP generated more than $76 million in additional earnings and 2,266 new jobs in 2012 alone, according to a report issued in 2013 by the Anderson Economic Group (AEG), an independent economic research and consulting firm based in East Lansing. Going forward, the AEG study projects the MNJTP annually to generate $143 million in additional earnings and more than 4,700 jobs.

“This collaborative program between community colleges and businesses has shown great success in preparing workers for jobs that companies are waiting to fill,” said Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, who sponsored Senate Bill 70. “These bills will ensure community colleges are able to participate and train workers going forward by eliminating a previously established cap in the existing law. Doing so will mean fewer companies will be waiting for qualified employees.”

St. Clair County Community College (SC4) is one of the schools taking part in the program. The college has partnerships with SMR Automotive of Marysville, Grace Engineering of Memphis and Eissmann Automotive of Port Huron.

Dr. Kevin Pollock, president of SC4, testified last week before the Senate Education Committee about the value of the program to St. Clair County and the Thumb region. He touted the program’s direct benefits, including 189 eligible new jobs resulting from MNJTP agreements with SMR Automotive, Grace Engineering, and Eissmann Automotive.

“Not only does this program help create jobs, it also provides superior training for employees,” Pollock said. “This targeted training eliminates the skills gap by providing employees with the precise skills they need to match employers’ needs. In addition, the program’s emphasis on local involvement helps educators and employers work together to benefit their communities.”

In the past, representatives of Northwestern Michigan College and General Motors Co. have testified before the Education Committee in support of the MNJTP, as have Magna International Inc. CEO Frank Ervin and SMR Automotive’s Marysville facility Managing Director Sai Tatineni.

The committee has also heard from WABCO North America, a tier-one automotive supplier in Rochester Hills that partners with Oakland County Community College, and Johnson Controls of Holland, which holds an MNJTP contract with Grand Rapids Community College.

Senate Bills 69–71 have been sent to the Michigan House for further consideration.