Though people who live outside of Michigan might not realize it, the recent decline of the U.S. economy was heralded by the gradual collapse of Michigan’s economy over the last several years. With the struggles of Michigan’s automakers — the state’s primary industry — many workers have lost their jobs or are in danger of becoming unemployed. But the state has been working to mitigate this consequence with its No Worker Left Behind program, which provides grants to educate and retrain workers in high-demand and growing fields. NWLB recently released the results from its initial 18 months, and the program’s progress is promising — for workers and for the economy. The state should consider expanding the program in the future.

NWLB was first implemented in August 2007. The program aims to retrain workers in danger of losing their jobs by arming them with the skills needed for emerging and high-demand fields. In order to apply, individuals must be unemployed, have received a termination notice or make less than $40,000 per year. The state spends roughly $10,000 per worker over the course of enrollment in the program to help pay for the workers to attain degrees or occupational certificates in sectors in need of workers. According to the first round of results released by the state on Monday, 72 percent of those in the program during its first 18 months have either retained their jobs or found new positions.

The only way to revive Michigan’s economy — and to prevent similar statewide economic failure in the future — is to increase science- and technology-based industries. But these industries require a workforce that is educated in new fields. Programs like NWLB will prepare workers to transition to growing fields like green energy production, biotechnology and the medical field. These industries are the future of Michigan’s economy, and NWLB prepares workers for this future.

But NWLB is making a difference on an individual level, too. Michigan’s unemployment is at a dizzying 15.3 percent as of September, according to the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. Programs that give workers the skills to stay employed are one way to keep that rate from growing.

After all, the state has a responsibility to support education — not just for K-12 and college kids, but for workers, too. People of all ages should have the opportunity to broaden their knowledge base and apply this knowledge to a successful and desirable career. With the economy so distressed, the state must shoulder more of the responsibility in making sure this happens and offer more programs like NWLB that support education and help the economy.

It’s impossible to determine if NWLB is the sole reason for the 72 percent success rate because of all the variables in the turbulent economy. But any program that helps Michigan workers to keep their jobs while preparing the state economy for a brighter future is clearly a success. The legislature should look at expanding it to include more struggling workers.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.