Unemployed helped by retraining

Published 9:14 pm Saturday, August 18, 2007

By Staff
DOWAGIAC – Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees reviewed efforts to help unemployed workers in the region, awarded three service pins, opened bids, accepted gifts and grants and conducted other business at the regularly convened meeting for August Tuesday evening on the Dowagiac campus.
According to college President Dr. David Mathews, "SMC's workforce training programs produce highly skilled workers that employers need to be successful.
"Additionally, SMC's incumbent worker training programs provide employers with ongoing training for their workers so that their businesses remain competitive and viable.
"Beyond pre-employment training and continuing training, however, SMC also plays a key role in helping workers who have lost their jobs to gain the skills they need to get back to work."
In partnership with the tri-county Michigan Works! office, SMC is a key player in the local "Rapid Response Employee Orientation Program" that is triggered when a plant closure or mass layoff is announced.
SMC employees Denice Tropp-Yates and Diane Barrett-Curtis described the services that the college provides to displaced workers through this program.
"The Rapid Response program is an opportunity for workers facing the loss of their jobs to obtain as much information as possible about the services and assistance available to them during their transition into the next phase of their work careers," explained Tropp-Yates.
According to Barrett-Curtis, "SMC provides a wealth of programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand careers.
"Beyond all of these well-established career training programs offered by the college, Southwestern Michigan College also offers a very unique occupational technology degree.
"In this program, people can translate some of the training and certifications they have received on the job into college credit. Depending on the type of training they received, it could bring someone one step closer to receiving an associate's degree."
Over the past year, this Rapid Response team has met with more than 400 affected workers in the tri-county area, including workers from Ameriwood, United Fixtures, Dowagiac Nursing Home and Simplicity.
One new tool Michigan has made available to help its citizens is the new "No Worker Left Behind" (NWLB) tuition program."
Made public Aug. 1, this program allows for displaced workers, unemployed or underemployed people, or people with a family income of $40,000 or less to apply for $10,000 in free tuition.
"The No Worker Left Behind program is a wonderful opportunity for people to find a new career," explained SMC Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews, who also serves as a member of the Michigan Works! board. "Career fields with the most opportunity today include health care, advanced manufacturing technology and information systems. Also, if someone wants to stay in their particular field but upgrade their skills, SMC can help. SMC is working hand-in-hand with Michigan Works! to put people back to work in good-paying jobs that have a future."
The Board of Trustees honored three SMC employees for the dedication and service to the college: Jennifer Dodson, Elizabeth Dwan and Dr. David Mathews.
In other business, trustees opened bids for printing of the 2008 class schedule books.
Bids were referred to the administration for analysis, with the directive to award the contract to the low bidder that meets specifications.
SMC has been chosen as the host site for the upcoming regional competition for Business Professionals of America (BPA).
The competition will be held on Friday, Jan. 4, 2008, at the Dowagiac campus. Approximately 500 high school students from southwest Michigan are expected to attend.
The Museum at Southwestern Michigan College will host the last of its annual Brown Bag Lunch Series on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at 12:05 p.m. in the Upton Room at the museum.
Bring your lunch and the museum will provide beverages and cookies.
The museum launches its fall lecture series on Wednesday, Sept. 5, with "Postcards of Sister Lakes," by author Rick Rasmussen. The series runs the first Wednesday of each month through Dec. 5. All lectures are free and held in the Upton Room at 6:30 p.m.