Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appeared alongside more than a dozen representatives of business, labor, and education organizations, as well as legislators from both parties, at Lansing Community College on Thursday to voice their support for legislation aimed at bolstering the state’s workforce.
In the Senate, the former was introduced by state Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and the latter by state Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth). The House bills were sponsored by state Reps. Sheryl Kennedy (D-Davison) and Ben Frederick (R-Owosso), respectively.
The bills are based on proposals introduced by Whitmer in February as part of her State of the State address for the MI Opportunity Scholarship and Michigan Reconnect Program.
Whitmer said that the programs will “ensure that our businesses can attract the talent they need to thrive in their communities, and ensure that more people will want to move to our state to start their families.”
Many contend that Michigan has faced a serious talent deficit as a booming economy has created scores of unfilled jobs. Laura Dunsford, CEO of Michigan Works!, wrote in the Detroit News last year that “employers searching for long-term hires in nursing, computing and technology have long complained about the shortage of skilled talent.”
According to a press release from Whitmer’s office, Ananich’s bill would “ensure universal access to community college for every student in Michigan and bring down the cost of a four-year university for every low- and middle-income Michigan student who gets a B average in high school.”
Horn’s bill would create the “Michigan Reconnect Program” aimed at providing “free skills-training programs for adults at community colleges to fill the tens of thousands of jobs currently in demand from Michigan businesses.”
Joshua Pugh, Michigan communications director for the progressive political action committee For Our Future, wrote that Michiganders to whom his group has spoken “want to see exactly what Gov. Whitmer is now proposing.”
The programs have been embraced by Republicans and more traditionally conservative groups, as well, with Michigan Chamber President and CEO Rich Studley saying he was “eager to work with Governor Whitmer.”
Republican former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, now president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said the two initiatives will “grow our workforce and give our small business owners the support they need to thrive here in Michigan.”