GRCC Pathways to Prosperity a National Model

Grand Rapids Community College, along with many community partner organizations, continues to help Grand Rapids residents acquire new skills which make them more employable in the emerging green job markets that hold promise for Michigan’s future.

In just over a year, more than 1,200 people have attended awareness sessions offered to Grand Rapids residents to find out if they qualify for training opportunities available through the $4 million Pathways to Prosperity grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Over 600 qualifying participants have met with career coaches, an aspect of GRCC’s program that is being looked at as a national model which prompted a site visit from the Department of Labor last month. These career coaches provide guidance to participants to match their skills and talents with the proper training to allow them to succeed.

“We currently have over 400 people receiving some type of education and training through the Pathways program,” stated program manager, John VanElst. “More than 75 have completed training and are working today.”

GRCC has been training and retraining West Michigan workers for specific job fields, like Solar Panel Installer, Wind Energy Safety Technician, Deconstruction Worker and Computer Technician, but this grant allows workers to improve basic skills too.

“Some people need new technical skills to work on wind turbines or solar panels,” says VanElst.  “Many also need basic skills - like reading or math improvement - or what we call ‘employability skills’ - like how to handle problem solving, critical thinking or workplace expectations. This grant allows us to provide for all those needs."

Partners include ACSET (Area Community Services Employment and Training), Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids, Manpower, the Women’s Resource Center, and the Literacy Center of West Michigan - all of which have experience in training specific populations. VanElst explains that by working with agency partners with established areas of expertise monies are not consumed duplicating programs and services.

 “This is what we do,” said Julie Parks, Director of Workforce Training at GRCC. “We take people at virtually any point in their life and provide them with educational opportunities that can positively change their lives. When we work with partners who are also invested in this community, the results are enhanced exponentially.”

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for over 32,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several additional locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.