Kentwood and Wyoming Residents Now Qualify for the Pathways to Prosperity Program

Residents of Kentwood and Wyoming can now receive the benefits of the Pathways to Prosperity Program offered through Grand Rapids Community College. Previously, only residents of the City of Grand Rapids qualified. This change in qualifications will make more residents eligible to receive workforce training through Grand Rapids Community College.

Now, anyone who lives within the Grand Rapids, Kentwood or Wyoming city limits - and meets Department of Labor (DOL) qualifications - may qualify to train for jobs in energy-efficient building construction and retrofitting, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable manufacturing.  “This change will allow us to serve many people who have been turned away in the past. People who are ready to take advantage of the services offered by GRCC and our partners,” says John VanElst, Pathways to Prosperity Program Director.

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

Over 1,000 qualifying participants have met with career coaches, an aspect of GRCC’s program that is considered a national model. These career coaches provide guidance to participants, matching their skills and talents with the proper training to allow them to succeed.

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

“We have more than 150 participants now working in all areas of sustainability - some working on wind turbines and others in water treatment facilities, for example,” said VanElst.  “We work hard to train participants not only in the technical skills needed for these new jobs, but also the basic skills required - like reading or math improvement - and what we call ‘employability’ skills, like problem solving, critical thinking and workplace expectations. This grant allows us to provide for all those needs.”

Partners in the Pathways program include Area Community Services Employment and Training (ACSET), Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids, Manpower, the Women’s Resource Center and the Literacy Center of West Michigan. According to VanElst, these organizations provide experience in working with specific populations. ”By working with agency partners with established areas of expertise, monies are not consumed duplicating programs and services,” he said.

GRCC was awarded a $4 million "Pathways out of Poverty" – now Pathways to Prosperity - grant in February 2010 from the U.S. Department of Labor. Already over 1,700 have attended awareness sessions and more that 650 are participating in the program.

“This program really demonstrates what GRCC can do and the role we play in the community,” said Julie Parks, Director of Workforce Training, “We impact people’s lives by providing the skills they need to make a positive change.”

Those interested in participating in the Pathways to Prosperity program should call (616) 234-3400 or visit 

In 2010, GRCC trained over 8,000 people. Training areas include but are not limited to: Alternative Energy, Business and Entrepreneurship, Health Care, Innovation, Manufacturing, and Sustainable Construction.