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Workforce Intelligence Network Responds to Southeast Michigan's Real-time Workforce Needs


New collaboration between eight community colleges, seven workforce boards and economic development partners will serve as a resource hub for talent partners including regional businesses, policy makers and others


The Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) for Southeast Michigan was launched in November 2011 with the goal of assessing the area's workforce needs and supplying metro Detroit employers, educational institutions, workforce development agencies, and policy makers with the information they need to further cultivate and transform the region's workforce.  Funded by a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the New Economy Initiative, WIN is a region-wide collaborative effort between metro Detroit's eight community colleges, seven workforce boards and economic development partners to assess and serve three primary roles for southeast Michigan:

  •  Gather, analyze and distribute real-time workforce data specific to southeast Michigan;
  • Serve as a connection point for regional business, industry and other stakeholders in regard to workforce development;
  • Research talent-related policy concerns.

For each of the above, WIN will apply a plan of action to achieve desired outcomes. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) also is providing in-kind support to the WIN initiative, including technical expertise and resources. "WIN is a strong model of regional collaboration that promises to drive our talent enhancement policies," said Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the MEDC.


"Collectively, these community colleges and workforce boards designed this concept to leverage assets to build a comprehensive and cohesive workforce and talent system across the region," said WIN Executive Director Lisa Katz. "Their investment in this network will arm economic developers, business accelerators, colleges, universities, training institutions, employers and policy makers with the data and strategies they need to help redefine the region's workforce."


WIN is working to address regional workforce issues by identifying regional skill training needs of the corporate IT sector and will also implement regional training strategies.  WIN will also develop a career pathway for the energy workforce with special focus on entry level and apprenticeship resources.  This sector is anticipating a retirement crisis among skilled workers and came to WIN to develop strategies for rebuilding the talent pipeline.


Supported the demand of the rebounding auto sector for skilled engineers and technicians with hybrid and electric vehicle expertise. WIN is working with business and government partners to bring together the combined expertise of regional workforce boards and community colleges to develop a blueprint for short and longer-term talent development.


"The Workforce Intelligence Network's regional approach creates an opportunity for educational institutions, workforce boards, and economic development partners to collaborate on a new level and provide comprehensive data for the entire region, not just one specific geographical area," said New Economy Initiative Executive Director David Egner. "Their support will help identify where resources are needed and how it will affect business development."


About the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan

The Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN) is a collaborative effort between eight community colleges, seven workforce boards and economic development partners to assess the area's workforce needs and supply metro Detroit employers, educational institutions and policy makers with the information they need to further cultivate and transform the region's workforce.


WIN is made up of the following eight community colleges:

v Macomb Community College

v Monroe County Community College

v Mott Community College

v Oakland Community College

v Schoolcraft College

v St. Clair Community College

v Washtenaw Community College

v Wayne County Community College District


And seven workforce boards:

v Career Alliance

v Detroit Workforce Development Department

v Livingston County Michigan Works!

v Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works!

v Oakland County Michigan Works!

v Southeast Michigan Community Alliance

v Washtenaw County Employment, Training and Community Services


About The New Economy Initiative

The New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan (NEI) is an innovative philanthropic effort to accelerate the transition of metro Detroit to an innovation-based economy that expands opportunity for all. Ten national, regional and local foundations have committed $100 million to this unprecedented eight-year initiative, including the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (Detroit), the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation (Southfield, Michigan), the Ford Foundation (New York), the Hudson-Webber Foundation (Detroit), the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Battle Creek, Michigan), the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (Miami), The Kresge Foundation (Troy, Michigan), the McGregor Fund (Detroit), the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (Flint, Michigan), and the Skillman Foundation (Detroit). The participating foundations are leading the implementation and governance of the Initiative. The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which initiated the collaborative, is serving as its administrative home. For more information, please visit .

Corporate Voices for Working Families has released four new micro-business cases documenting the considerable benefits gained when employers, community colleges, and community organizations forge close partnerships to support working Americans. Model efforts like these are helping supply employers with the skilled talent they need, while creating promising career opportunities for Americans who urgently need them in a changing and challenging 21st-century economy.


The new profiles feature the efforts of three diverse employers who are building a talent pipeline of current and future employees.

  • AREVA, a global energy corporation, partners with Central Virginia Community College, on a training program through which employees pursue their higher education while working at the company.
  • Bright Horizons Family Solutions LLC, the world's top provider of employer-sponsored child care, early education, and work-life solutions, worked with an educational publishing company to develop an online training program through which employees earn the industry's benchmark child-development credential.
  • McDonald's, a leading global foodservice retailer, invests in executive talent development through its innovative Hamburger University (HU) and its network of regional training centers and HU campuses around the world. McDonald's worked with the American Council on Education to gain credit recommendation for much of its training - making it one of only a dozen Fortune 500 companies to receive college credit for the training it provides to its employeers.  Moreover, through its alliance with some 15 higher education institutions, the company ensures that successful HU students can translate their training into academic credits toward their associate or bachelor's degrees.   

A fourth micro-business case spotlights the efforts of a popular retailer that is creating first-time training opportunities for disadvantaged youth:

  • Gap Inc., a leading global specialty retailer, partners with community organizations to support This Way Ahead, a program providing career exploration, job readiness training, and paid internships for young adults at Gap and Old Navy stores.

"Employer partnerships with community colleges and local organizations are playing a key role in providing the supports that today's working learners-often low-income young adults-need to gain valuable skills, pursue their education, and advance up the career ladder," said Donna Klein, Corporate Voices' Executive Chair and CEO.


The first three profiles, part of a series published within Corporate Voices' ongoing Learn & Earn initiative, are available online.


The Gap Inc. profile, also part of a series of best-practice micro-cases focused on Enterprising Pathways for underserved youth, may be found here.


Corporate Voices' Learn & Earn initiative is made possible through the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its Enterprising Pathways research is made possible with the generous support of New Options, a project of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Linking Workforce Development and Economic Development

In its new issue of Update, the Workforce Strategies Initiative (WSI) of the Aspen Institute discusses the capacities workforce development programs need to better align their strategies with economic development in their local labor market. The publication uses examples from three cities - Louisville, KY; Cleveland, OH; and Pittsburgh, PA - where workforce leaders worked with industry representatives, government, and others to support their local industry and connect their worker constituencies to opportunities created by economic development activities.  To read the issue, go to


Finding jobs in this economy can be difficult but for the past year, the Workforce Development Center in Pewaukee, WI has received extra help from the federal AmeriCorps VISTA program.

The Workforce Development Center provides support for people looking for jobs and employers looking for workers. 

Their first VISTA was Traci Higgs, who completed her year of service last month. Norris credits Higgs for strengthening or establishing a relationship with other agencies throughout the community, creating a one-stop resource area for customers to the center, holding classes for job seekers and developing opportunities for students and interns to help with the program, in addition to other accomplishments.

VISTA member Dawn Vandenhouten, who just started her year with the center, says Higgs is a hard act to follow.

Vandenhouten may have a secret weapon, though.

Three years ago and after 28 years in the workforce, she was laid off.

“I was that person,” she said. “You feel like the floor is falling out beneath you. It’s a complicated process to re-invent yourself after that.”

Vandenhouten has worked for the past three years finishing her degree and polishing her job skills with the help of the center. She graduated with a degree in graphic design last May. The idea of a year of service was intriguing.

“I think it’s beneficial to give back in your life,” Vandenhouten said. “It’s a year of service but helps me pull together some of my other skills. I can help other people in my situation hopefully, and build on that. I’m sure I’ll glean a lot of good things in own my life, too.”

A woman she met during her first week on the job sticks in her mind. While helping in the resume building lab, Vandenhouten was asked to help a customer set up an email account for sending resumes.

The 74-year-old woman needed a job.

“That impacted me. There are so many people that should be sitting back enjoying retirement but who need to get a job to sustain their lives,” Vandenhouten said.  “They’re almost a forgotten generation but they’re out there. They need to be working too. And we’re all competing for the jobs.”

Encompassed in one building are eight different agencies that can help job searchers with staff who administer any number of different programs, including a career center, co-op program, public support and special education programs.

The increased demand for their programs when the economy took a turn for the worse in 2009 prompted the organization to get creative, according to Beth Norris, operations coordinator, at the Workforce Development Center.

“At the inception of the project, the center was experiencing record demand,” Norris said. “Our traffic flow was reaching 40,000 visits.”

“We hit that peak demand at the same time public funding for all the services in our building was going down. That led us say how can we extend, how can we help fill those gaps and voids where we’re challenged in meeting the needs of folks who are seeking services?” Norris said.

Enter the AmeriCorps VISTA program, a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or local government agency, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, strengthen community groups, and more, according to the AmeriCorps VISTA website.

“It seemed like a good fit for us to see if we could use an AmeriCorps VISTA person to help us mobilize resources and look for creative ways to address unmet needs,” Norris said. “That’s what VISTAs do. They kind of bring creative energy to community needs.”

Weathering the recession

The Workforce Development Center offers a variety of services for job seekers:  career exploration, training and education, job search and placement, and resources for economic support, if necessary.

“Our goal is a person comes in the door and we just help them,” Norris said. “An employer needs a worker, and we help them find that person that they need.”

The job seekers are coming from different of groups of people – middle class, lower class and upper class.

“If there was ever a sense that we serve only one group of people, that vanished once the economy changed,” Norris said. “So there are highly educated people, people with long work histories, our neighbors, our friends, our family, coming through the door.”

One thing that everyone should do, employed or not, is work to improve their computer and job skills in case something unexpected happens, according to Norris.

“No one is ever done with what they need to learn. Everyone should consider themselves in a job transition, even if they have a job,” she said.

Signs of hope

There are signs of hope, though, for job seekers.

“We have been energized in the last year or so compared to a couple of years ago. We are seeing people get jobs, we seeing employers that are looking for people,” Norris said, noting that they are also seeing fewer companies going through lay-offs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Waukesha County dropped from 6.2 to 5.9 from October 2010 to October 2011. The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force.

Also, according to Norris, the current workforce development system is working better than it ever has. The model of having multiple agencies under one roof providing complementary services has never been more relevant.

“Because we’ve seen people who have lost their job after a long time being a taxpaying, stable, working citizens who because of the economy, the length of time to gain re-employment and the need to update skills, have needed to use some of the supportive services as a very temporary solution,” she said.

Plus with the balance between county, state, federal and educational services, all the key leaders in our economy and community in the building, she said.

“It feels like it’s been these last couple of years that it’s really had a chance to be there for folks coming through the door,” she said.


Want to learn more about building career skills?  A new report by Corporate Voice for Working Families examines employers embracing training for their workers.

Through case studies and concrete metrics, Why Companies Invest in 'Grow Your Own' Talent Development Models details how several respected American employers invest in education, training and the basic workforce readiness of their employees, with a particular focus on the needs of entry-level and lower-skilled associates. The companies studied - including CVS/Caremark, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. - took different approaches to their training programs, and  the report outlines how their investments have paid off in a range of valuable dividends.  To download the report, go to



State Officials Launch New Online Job Search Tool

In late November, Acting New Jersey Governor Kim Guadagno and Labor Commissioner Hal Wirths launched a new job-search engine at the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s to help workers find jobs. is part of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s comprehensive emphasis on job assistance. The free website, which was created earlier this year to guide job-seekers and employers through the maze of state and federal services, now offers a unique tool to help people find new careers.

Called OnRamp, the new job-search engine allows job-seekers to go online to quickly upload a resume or create a customized resume, even for industries where resumes were traditionally not used. Visitors to can use OnRamp to have their skills showcased to thousands of employers and access job opportunities listed on 2,400 websites with one search.

Through OnRamp, New Jersey job-seekers may:

  • Receive e-mail alerts on job matches, and customize how those alerts are received when employers post new jobs matching a job-seekers skills and experience
  • Move their search beyond job titles by having the search engine list skills and knowledge outside a work history, such as experiences from volunteer work
  • Learn how to improve the chances of being noticed by employers by following on-screen guidelines on improving a resume and a job search’s OnRamp tool is an interactive system that permits job-seekers to regularly update their resume and job searches. The system allows customers to create a profile for employers to review, and it allows them to create multiple job searches – customizing each one by geography, salary, industry or keywords that will attract prospective employers.

The Department will further enhance the system in the coming weeks to allow New Jersey’s employers to have an equally robust search-engine in which to upload their talent needs. New Jersey has 34 One-Stop Career Centers throughout the state to assist people looking for work with a wide variety of services ranging from training to public assistance.

To date, approximately 30,000 people have registered on the job-search engine to search for employment and nearly 24,000 of them have loaded a resume. Through an anonymous customer survey conducted through the system, nearly 200 users said they received an interview for system generated jobs; approximately 100 respondents said they have been offered jobs through OnRamp.




New social media tool for businesses introduced in MN

Having a highly skilled workforce contributing to the community is the goal of the Washington County WorkForce Investment Board (WIB) in Minnesota, and in 2011 that means using social media for customer communication and marketing.

The WIB held a Social Media Forum last month at the Oakdale Discovery Center, inviting local business people to learn how to use social media to promote their businesses and serve customers.

The program was sponsored by CorTrust Bank, the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce, the Forest Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, the Woodbury Community Foundation, the city of Woodbury Yellow Ribbon Network, The Entrepreneur's Source, the Minnesota WorkForce Center and Washington County.

Presenters Lief Larson of Workface and Tyler Olson of SMCPros could show as well as tell the participants how interactive websites and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are used to find and serve customers.

Larson provided a broad overview of how today's consumer finds and buys products and services. In 2012, a majority of consumers in the United States will have access to the Internet, and it will also influence their "offline" behavior, Larson said. Those aged 20 or younger receive half their information from online sources.

At the same time, when Internet users move "online," they are expecting more from their Internet experience than simply reading a page of text on a computer. Consumers are changing the way they find and use information, and that affects almost every aspect of people's lives, including how businesses do business, Larson said.

Businesses must think in terms of providing information for all product users, Larson said, not just their customers. A message might start with a specific consumer, but it soon spreads to all the people they know and it is these "users" that business should be concerned about, as messages the businesses send influence how users think about their businesses. With the right message, these users will find the information and service that they need, and become customers, Larson added.

Since people do consumer research online, doing business will require a human response in the online space, Larson said. He showed examples of websites that provide traditional information, plus an opportunity for online "chats" with customer service people who promptly respond to consumer questions.

Larson said research shows that consumers expect to have a response to a question within minutes to keep them engaged and quick reaction time is necessary to turn an interested consumer into a customer.

Larson stressed that businesses must use a number of social media tools to keep customers engaged. Olson walked the group through a number of social media platforms, explaining their uses, and value to businesses. Olson also noted that people are using mobile devices to access the Internet, and to be aware of that when creating messages for the Internet.

Both Larson and Olson noted several times that it is crucial that business people have a goal for their social media use, that business people must know what they wish to accomplish, and so will know when the programs are working for them.



On November 30, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum and released two new policy proposals that provide evidence-based, cost-effective approaches to worker training—both of which are designed to increase earnings and employment prospects.

1.      Raising Job Quality and Skills for American Workers: Creating More-Effective Education and Workforce Development Systems in the States,” by Harry J. Holzer of Georgetown University, builds on the success of sectoral training programs for disadvantaged workers to create a competitive grant system. This system will give states funding for creating partnerships between training providers and employers or industry groups. The grants would fund a workforce and education system that provides students and training participants with the skills that employers demand by directly linking their education and training with the labor market.

2.      Policies to Reduce High-Tenured Displaced Workers’ Earnings Losses through Retraining,” by Louis S. Jacobson of New Horizons Economic Research, Robert J. LaLonde of the University of Chicago, and Daniel G. Sullivan of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, focuses on the problem of retraining displaced workers who have experienced significant earnings losses due to lower wages after reemployment. The paper proposes the establishment of a Displaced Worker Training (DWT) program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor to provide sizeable grants for longer-term training and utilizes honest brokers to assess and counsel grantees to increase the returns to the DWT program.

The forum featured two roundtable discussions  on the papers featuring Harry J. Holzer; Rhandi Berth, Vice President, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership; Maureen Conway, Director, Economic Opportunities, The Aspen Institute; Steven VanAusdle, President, Walla Walla Community College; Louis S. Jacobson; Daniel Marschall, Legislative and Policy Specialist for Workforce Issues, AFL-CIO; and Michael Greenstone, Director of the Hamilton Project.  United States Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was on hand to provide remarks.  Finally, the forum was closed with a discussion featuring Eric A. Spiegel, President and CEO of the Siemens Corporation.


More information about the forum can be found at