Bipartisan lawmakers sponsor Whitmer scholarship, skills training programs

    Gov. Whitmer at LCC
    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking at Lansing Community College, April 18, 2019 | Gov. Whitmer photo

    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.

    Senate Bills 267 and 268, along with their corresponding House Bills 4464 and 4456, would provide universal access to community college and free skills training programs for adults, respectively.

    Sen. Jim Ananich
    Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich speaking at Lansing Community College, April 18, 2019 | Gov. Whitmer photo

    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.”

    Sen. Ken Horn
    Sen. Ken Horn speaking at Lansing Community College, April 18, 2019 | Gov. Whitmer photo

    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.”

    SBAM President Brian Calley
    Former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley speaking at Lansing Community College, April 18, 2019 | Gov. Whitmer photo

    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.”

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

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