Training Services Leverages Jobs Programs, New Methods

It may be the era of government cutbacks, but one state program that has helped numerous Grand Traverse employers – the Michigan New Jobs Training Program – is expected to be around at least until 2023. Administered by Northwestern Michigan College’s (NMC) Training Services, the program helps qualifying companies divert payroll taxes into a fund to train new hires.

So far, NMC has worked with nearly three dozen area employers.’“It’s a way for companies to invest in human capital,” said Rich Wolin, director of NMC Training Services. “We’ve written just over $3.4 million in training programs since 2010. That’s money that companies normally would pay in taxes.”

The big-picture purpose is to support job growth in businesses that pay good wages which, in the end, should strengthen the tax pool.

Who Qualifies?

Like any government program, there are guidelines. Virtually any kind of company that is about to hire a new employee at a minimum of 175 percent of the current state minimum wage can enter the program and set aside money into an account managed by NMC.

The program does not apply to current employees.

“Another key thing is (that) a preliminary agreement has to be signed by the business and the college before the new employee is hired,” Wolin added.

The wage requirement is a stumbling block for some companies. The current Michigan minimum hourly wage is $8.90, so to qualify, the pay rate for the person who is about to be hired must be at least $15.58 per hour. That equates to roughly $32,000 per year for a fulltime position, close to double what certain industries typically pay.

“And as the minimum wage goes up, the number of qualifying employees tends to go down,” Wolin said. “We did a lot more contracts earlier in the life of the program, back when the qualifying (hourly) wage was just a bit more than $12.”

Still, the program continues to appeal to companies that are hiring, have training needs and are able to pay well over the current minimum wage.

What Kind of Training?

Over the years, NMC has designed a wide variety of training courses for participating companies. “In particular, we’ve done a lot of Lean Training, leadership courses and technical training in skills like machining,” Wolin said.

NMC has also offered numerous courses to new hires in the region’s insurance sector.

But there have also been courses in less traditional subjects like photonics manufacturing training for a laser tech company and a lumber grading and sorting course for a lumber mill.

In fact, Wolin said some clients are surprised just how flexible the uses of the jobs program can be. It all depends on the needs of companies that qualify.

The funds set aside, for example, can pay for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and for related expenses, such as books, travel and specialized trainers. If the training package costs more than the amount deposited, the company typically picks up the difference.

NMC Training Methods

Years of experience training adults led Wolin, along with contributors Darrell Rogers and Linda Racine, to create their own teaching method, the Active Learning Model.

It is a six-step method that includes:

  • Defining the purpose – agreeing on why the training is important to the business
  • Setting objectives – deciding what will be taught
  • Creating a process – determining the best path of instruction for the topic at hand
  • Delivering the information – engaging students in the process
  • Evaluating results – analyzing whether the training is meeting stated objectives
  • Modifying the process – making changes based on feedback from the customer, students and trainer.

 

The word “active” best describes the entire approach.

“It speaks to how adults best absorb and retain training,” Wolin explained. “Adult learners – in fact kids, too – don’t want to sit in a room and have someone just talk to them. Instruction needs to be hands on. Our goal is 75 percent activities and 25 percent or less lecturing.”

The Active Learning Model is highly customer-focused. It’s not an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all approach. It is also intense.

“It can be exhausting, but it is time well used,” he said. “The time flies by for students and the instructor. Everyone is up and moving around, interacting with others.”

The NMC Training Services also holds “train the trainer” courses in the Active Learning Model.

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