West Michigan Manufacturing Program Preparing State’s Industry 4.0 Workforce

C. Dennis Triggs II
February 6, 2023
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With the gap in skilled manufacturing jobs expected to grow, programs like Grand Rapids Community College's One Workforce for West Michigan Manufacturing will be pivotal in keeping Michigan's workforce ready to take on new opportunities in Industry 4.0.

The One Workforce for West Michigan Manufacturing grant, led by Grand Rapids Community College Workforce Training, is a $9.8 million Department of Labor grant designed to increase the pipeline of workers in skilled trades in manufacturing.

Serving the seven counties of region 4b located in West Michigan (Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, and Ottawa), this new program brings together economic development, workforce development and community organizations, as well as other community colleges and employers. Grant partners work to train our community’s current workforce in automation, digital manufacturing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and others.

The education and training activities are designed to meet the needs of employers, support achievement of the training outcomes and lead to occupations in middle- to high-skilled jobs. The regional employment and training strategy is built on input from employers and job seekers alike. The program is designed to effectively position job seekers as competitive for in-demand careers within the region.  

One Workforce students not only receive funding for training, but also receive wrap around services that are designed to address and break down barriers that may prohibitive to the learning experience. Students are connected with Job Developers, who act as a bridge between students and employers. The Job Developers provide one-on-one assistance to students, teach resume writing and employment searching skills. They also work with employers to identify their needs as they pertain to filling open positions ensuring a positive placement for both student and employer.

How does it help the industry upskill its workforce?

New technologies are being developed which are having a great impact on how manufacturing is being done. Some of these include the use of automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics. To keep up with the new advancements in technology, employers are looking for new opportunities to train their existing employees as a way of allowing the integration the (new) technology without being handcuffed by the need to search for someone to operate in these spaces. At the time of this article, there are approximately 770 participants who have either completed or are currently enrolled in trainings supported by the One Workforce grant.

How does this address the talent/tech worker staffing challenges facing manufacturing?

Currently there approximately 610,000 manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan. Many of the workers in these sectors have retired or left the workforce. The One Workforce Grant helps support the training and development of educational programs for both existing and new manufacturing possibilities. Along with the upskilling of current employees, the One Workforce Grant also works to attract people into existing and emerging disciplines of manufacturing.

Who are the partners of this program?

There are five partners on this project with Grand Rapids Community College. The training partners include Montcalm Community College, Muskegon Community College as our training partners. West Michigan Works serves as the workforce development partner. The Urban League of West Michigan (formerly the Grand Rapids Urban League) and the Hispanic Center of West Michigan are the community partners.

To help make this initiative successful, 13 employers committed early in the project to support this work. These employers include Aggressive Tooling, Autocam-Medical, GE Aviation, Gentex, Herman Miller, Howmet, Jireh Metal, JR Automation, LG Chem, Magna, NN Mobile Solutions, Scherdel Sales & Technology, and Steeplechase Tool & Die. As the grant has continued, other employers took advantage of the opportunity to upskill their workforce or hire students that have completed trainings covered by the One Workforce grant.

Where can you sign up for this training?

Using a “no wrong door” approach, individuals can sign up for this grant through any of the three colleges (Grand Rapids Community College, Montcalm Community College, Muskegon Community College), community partners (Urban League of West Michigan, Hispanic Center of West Michigan), or West Michigan Works. All partners collectively designed and use a common intake form. As part of the intake process, partner coaches work with a designated WMW Quality Assurance Specialist to validate each applicant’s eligibility.

For more information, contact GRCC One Workforce Grant Program Manager C. Dennis Triggs II by email at or by phone at (616) 234-3060.

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C. Dennis Triggs II
C. Dennis Triggs II

As Program Manager of the One Workforce Grant at Grand Rapids Community College, C. Dennis Triggs II helps people achieve their goal of attaining employment in the manufacturing workforce. Prior to working as program manager, Triggs held the position of Job Developer at GRCC and Youth Advocate Specialist for Grand Rapids Public Schools.

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