[APRIL 1, 1998] Michigans future economic well-being depends in
large part on the skill and education of its work force. The worlds highest
concentration of engineering manufacturing is in Michigan. Over half the worlds 100
largest automobile suppliers are located here, as are major producers of office furniture,
information technology and software, machine tools, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and
plastics. This high-technology employment base makes maintaining a skilled work force and
continual training public policy imperatives.
Throughout the country, and
certainly in Michigan, job training has been a complex and variable affair. As recently as
five years ago, there were more than 70 state and federal job-training programs in
Michigan. These were administered by myriad state and federal agencies, including the U.S.
departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, the Governors Office
on Job Training, the Michigan Employment Security Commission and the (then) Michigan
departments of Labor, Education, and Social Services. Exhibit 1,
developed by the Michigan Jobs Commission (MJC), presents an overview of the major federal
funding streams for job training and the resulting "job training maze" that
existed only a few years ago.
Not surprisingly, this complex
system had its critics. The complaints were that (1) poor coordination meant that some
job-training candidates were underserved, while others received too much help; (2) far too
much money was spent on administration and far too little on training; and (3) absent a
way to properly evaluate the programs, there is no way to know if job-training programs
meet employers and workers real needs.
Such criticism is leading
policymakers in both Lansing and Washington to embrace several changes in the job-training
system, most of which are aimed at making it more intelligible and accessible and better
coordinated with other economic development efforts. In Michigan the most apparent change
is the administrations designation of the Michigan Jobs Commission as the
states lead job-training agency and in the agencys subsequent introduction of
its "No Wrong Door" policy, designed to help both job seekers and employers.
During the 1990s, the job-training
focus changed in other ways as well. Traditionally, job training has been seen as an
aspect of economic policy, but it recently has come to be seen also as an aspect of
education and social welfare policy; this reflects policymakers endorsement of
career preparation as an important consideration in education, and employment as an
important goal of welfare.
Michigan Jobs Commission
In this large state agency, created in 1993, have gradually been consolidated many
economic development and job-training programs formerly found in the departments of Labor
and Commerce as well as other state agencies. The MJC is Michigans lead economic and
work-force development agency. Its stated mission is to
expand, and attract jobs,
the states business climate, and
a premier work force for Michigan businesses.
The agency describes itself as a
"one-stop business assistance center" offering a "seamless system of
service delivery to the business community." Its approach to job training is guided
by the belief that job training should be closely integrated with economic development and
that workers should be trained for the actual jobs employers are providing. The MJC
assumed even greater responsibility in February 1998 when it took over all
employment-related functions of the Michigan Employment Security Agency (MESA), formerly
the Michigan Employment Security Commission. However, one aspect of the reorganization is
being litigated. The state shifted to local work-force development boards (WDBs) the
MESAs employment servicesessentially privatizing them. The U.S. Department of
Labor, believing that this action was inconsistent with federal law, withheld $24 million
from the state in federal aid for unemployment services. The state appealed to U.S.
Circuit Court, which allowed the sanction to remain in place but agreed to an expedited
hearing on the matter in May 1998.
No Wrong Door
The MJC discharges many of its job-training responsibilities through a system of 26 local
work-force development boards, the service areas of which have the same boundaries as the
26 Michigan Works! agencies already established through the federal Job-training
Partnership Act (JTPA) program. The WDBs began operating in January 1996 and in 1997
implemented the No Wrong Door system.
The No Wrong Door approach is geared
to give both job seekers and employers access to a wide range of job-training services
that are both easy to get and customized to meet individual needs. Although services still
are provided by various state agencies, employers and job seekers can access all of them
through a local work-force development board. For example, the JTPA programs housed in the
MJC, the Job Opportunity and Basic Skills program housed in the Family Independence
Agency, and adult education programs housed in the Department of Education, all may be
accessed through local WDBs; in other words, any of these "doors" will give job
seekers and employers access to training programs.
The basic customer services offered
by all WDBs are listed in Exhibit 2. The boards also may offer
expanded services, in accordance with local needs and conditions.
In FY 199798, state and
federal funding for job training in Michigan totaled more than $358 million. Although
changes in programs make year-to-year comparisons difficult, the job-training budget of
most states have been declining due to federal budget reductions.
This listing describes the types of programs currently in place in Michigan. They fall
into three major program categories: work-to-work and unemployment-to-work;
welfare-to-work; and school-to-work.
Job-Training Partnership Act Approximately $114 million will go to
JTPA programs in FY 199798. These programs, which create a partnership between local
government and the private sector, are organized according to service delivery areas
(SDAs), of which there currently are 26. In each, local business leaders and elected
officials comprise a private industry council that gives program administrators policy
guidance and provides oversight. The 26 JTPA programs receive technical support from the
MJC Workforce Development/Job Training Division, which also is responsible for monitoring
JTPA program performance, providing financial oversight, and conducting data collection
Training (EDJT) The EDJT program is a state competitive-grant program ($31
million in FY 199798) designed to help Michigan businesses create new jobs and/or
retain jobs that otherwise would be at risk. The program is targeted at businesses that
are likely to have the most positive effect on the state economy: manufacturers, world
headquarters, warehousing and distribution centers, and enterprises that export state
goods and services. Companies that agree to create or retain jobs paying at least $7 an
hour are eligible to receive education and training services under the EDJT program.
Work First Program The federal Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 ushered in an era of welfare reform;
states now have a good deal of freedom to change their welfare programs, including
introducing work requirements as a condition of state welfare assistance. Michigan was
ahead of the national action, having received federal permission to establish its own
welfare-to-work program nearly two years earlier.
The goal of the Work First is to
help welfare recipients make a first connection with the labor market, thereby gaining
valuable work experience, learning transferable skills, and opening the door to future
training and employment opportunities. The program is a collaborative effort between the
MJC and the Family Independence Agency. Under the program, many state welfare recipients
are referred to their local work-force development board for participation in the Work
Participants are expected to attend
Work First for at least 20 hours a week and perhaps more, depending on whether they are a
member of a one- or two-parent family. Failure to attend leads to reduction and eventual
loss of their grant. Participants ultimately are placed in the best job for which they
qualify that provides at least 20 hours work a week at not less than the minimum
wage. FY 199798 funding for Work First is about $94 million.
Michigan School-to-Work Initiative Michigans emerging
school-to-work system is the result of a partnership between the MJC and the Michigan
Department of Education. The effort received a major boost when the state was awarded a
$49-million competitive federal grant over five years to develop state and local
partnerships to help young people acquire the knowledge, skills, abilities, and
familiarity with the labor market they need to make a smooth transition from school to
These partnerships are expected to
build on and enhance such existing programs as Tech Prep, Cooperative Education,
School-to-Registered Apprenticeship, Business-Education Compacts, trade academies, and
occupationally focused charter schools. The MJC lists three core components of the
School-to-Work Initiative. First is work-based learning: a structured,
progressive program of job training and experiences leading to skill certification; paid
work experience; workplace mentoring; job shadowing; and instruction in workplace skills.
Second is school-based learning: career awareness and counseling; challenging
academic and skill standards; an integrated curriculum; and evaluation. Third are connecting
activities: experiences directly linking the classroom and the workplace;
post-secondary education and training; and registered apprenticeships.
Students who successfully complete a
school-to-work program are rewarded with an endorsed high-school diploma and skills
certificate, a first career-oriented job, acceptance into a registered apprenticeship
program, or admission to college.
Youth Registered Apprenticeship
Tax Credit Beginning with tax year 1997, employers may take a state tax
credit of $2,000 per apprentice if they train high school students through registered
apprenticeships that meet federal or state standards. The credit is intended to help
offset the high employer cost of work-site training for young people while providing them
with training and exposure to the theoretical and practical aspects of various jobs.
To be eligible, an employer must
train registered apprentices aged younger than 20 who have not obtained a high school
diploma and are enrolled in a high school or GED test-preparation program.
Michigan Career Preparation
System The career preparation system was established by a governors
executive order in 1997 and amendments to the FY 199798 School Aid Act (P.A. 93 of
1997). The key features are (1) developing regional plans in which business, industry, and
educational institutions work together to develop school curriculum and tests, coordinate
funding, and devise work-site learning experiences for students; (2) forming a State
Council for Career Preparation Standards, the primary responsibilities of which include
maintaining an information system regarding employment opportunities, setting career
competency standards, and disseminating information on career options to students,
parents, and other interested parties; (3) expanding opportunities for collaboration among
private businesses, labor representatives, and educators, for the purpose of improving
work-based learning experiences for students; and (4) developing a system of
accountability and quality control through competency standards, measures of student
achievement, regional peer-review committees, and continuously updated information made
available to students and parents.
The programs primary objective
during 1997 was to develop the regional plans, for which $1.1 million in state funds were
allocated under P.A. 93. For the 199899 school year, just under $24 million in
additional funds were allocated to the career preparation system.
Scholarship Program In response to an increasing demand for skilled
workers, the Engler administration recently announced plans to devote up to $50 million in
state "renaissance" funds to a two-step job-training initiative. The program
will create as many as 10,000 scholarships for students who enroll in selected associate
degree or certification programs. Qualifying trainees will receive one-half the cost of
their training, up to $2,000. To address the long term, the program calls for allocating
$30 million to establish at least five new technical training centers at community
colleges and Focus Hope.
Changes in the state and federal approaches to job
training enjoy broad support from across the political spectrumas well as criticism
from many of the same sources. The system still is very complex, and many of the
traditional complaintsthat it is poorly coordinated and evaluated and
Funding for major federal programs
such as the Job-Training Partnership Act still come with many strings attached. Some
observers believe that the money could be more productively spent if it were distributed
to the states in the form of block grants. Such an approach, it is argued, would maximize
innovation and allow programs to be tailored to local needs. Supporters of the current
program, on the other hand, argue that the restrictions on JTPA and other federal programs
are appropriate because Congress has the right to appropriate national dollars to address
what it identifies as national priorities.
Within Michigan, the MJCs
approach to job training has elicited praise and criticism. The agency is undeniably a
big, activist public agency. To the degree that in implementing its programs it has
awarded priority to certain types of businesses, the MJC is said by some to be setting
state industrial policy as well.
Some critics complain that this
"big government" approach is inappropriate; they decry attempts to have
government, as opposed to the private marketplace, decide which sort of industries are
most desirable. Further, they denounce the practice of redistributing public tax dollars
to private corporations in the form of economic development job-training grantsa
practice that they describe as "corporate welfare." In this they are joined by
more liberal critics who object to government spending being taken out of programs for the
poor and given to large corporations for job-training activities that they believe the
firms should finance themselves.
Supporters of the MJC approach argue
that like it or not, incentives are part of the way the economic development game is
played in the 1990s. In their view, economic competition among states is a fact of life.
Major corporations can and do demand incentives as part of plant-location decisions. If
Michigan wants to be in the running for certain business investments, it is argued, it
must offer the sort of incentives and assistance that competitor states do. Supporters of
the MJC point to Michigans sterling economic performance during the 1990s as
evidence that its approach is working.
Community Colleges; Economic
Development: State Financial Incentives; Information
Technology and Society; Urban Revitalization;
Employment and Training Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N-4700
Washington, DC 20210
(202) 273-4793 FAX
Michigan Jobs Commission
Victor Office Center, 4th Floor
201 North Washington Square
Lansing, MI 48913
(517) 335-0198 FAX
[Accessible through the "Michigan" site on America Online;
key word: "Michigan"]
Michigan League for Human Services
300 North Washington Square, Suite 401
Lansing, MI 48933
(517) 371-4546 FAX
Office of Workforce Development/Job
Michigan Jobs Commission
Victor Office Center, 5th Floor
201 North Washington Square
Lansing, MI 48913
(517) 335-5945 FAX