New CNA Course Offered at Kent County Service Center

Trudy Brenner inside the CNA classroom at the Westside Service Center in Grand Rapids

The Westside Service Center now opens its doors to job seekers, employers and nursing manikins. A cohort of 11 adults are enrolled in a 13-week certified nursing assistant (CNA) course at the service center and will hopefully walk out with a new job.

Unlike some of the other students, one student in the cohort has many years of personal and professional CNA experience already; she’s taken care of family members with cancer, her Down syndrome son and in-home clients battling stage 4 illnesses. Trudy Brenner entered the class not only to become recertified as a CNA, but begin a new chapter of her life.

“Even though my certification only lapsed last fall, this class is a challenge. I’ve already learned new terminology and had to brush up on familiar terms,” Brenner said.

The program is a partnership between West Michigan Works! and Michigan Career and Technical Institute (MCTI), the training arm to Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS). MRS works with individuals with disabilities to remove barriers to training and employment. 

Read more: New CNA Course Offered at Kent County Service Center

Ottawa County Service Center Welcomes New Manager

Allise Wilkerson, Service Center Manager

West Michigan Works! has announced the promotion of Allise Wilkerson to Manager of its service center in Ottawa County.

Wilkerson has been with Michigan Works! since 2010 and brings a wealth of program and managerial experience to her new position.  She began her career working with job seekers in the welfare to work program and most recently served as assistant manager for the service center in Holland.

“I am looking forward to building and growing relationships with community partners to promote and develop talent within Ottawa County.”

-Allise Wilkerson 

Read more: Ottawa County Service Center Welcomes New Manager

The 2017 Hot Jobs! List is Here

West Michigan Works! recently announced the release of its “2017 Hot Jobs List,” the top 100 jobs in the region’s high-growth industries: construction, manufacturing, information technology, health sciences, agriculture and professional and administrative services. 

The Hot Jobs Lists provides a regional look at in-demand occupations; those with significant openings today, that are expected to see considerable growth and that lead to self-sufficiency through living wages and opportunities for advancement. To create the list, West Michigan Works! gathers state labor market information and data from job analytic programs. The data is then presented to employers for feedback and insight into regional hiring needs that creates a true representation of what is going on regionally.

Because of its West Michigan focus, the Hot Jobs List serves as a decision-making guide for many regional organizations.

“At Muskegon Community College we appreciate the Hot Jobs! List as it demonstrates the openings in our training fields and points us to emerging job titles to incorporate into our programs. We like the regional outlook as it matches our career placement region; we know that we are giving relevant information and guidance to students.”

-Dan Rinsema-Sybenga, Dean of Academic Affairs at Muskegon Community College

Read more: The 2017 Hot Jobs! List is Here

California Closets Opening Manufacturing Facility in West Michigan

California Closets, a California-based custom storage manufacturer and retailer, has chosen to open a new manufacturing facility in Cascade Township. The company is expected to invest over $5.7 million in the new facility and create 61 new jobs.

The company chose the West Michigan location over other sites in Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina and Indiana.

“West Michigan is attractive to us due to many factors. The location offers proximity to our customers and supply base, but more importantly a strong talent base in manufacturing and design.”

- Eric Wolff, President – Fulfillment, California Closets

West Michigan Works! has offered $48,000 in workforce development support to assist with recruiting and on-the-job training efforts.

Read More:

MLive: California Closets will invest $5.7M in West Michigan with 61 new jobs
WOODTV: Closet Manufacturer bringing 61 jobs to Cascade Twp.
Grand Rapids Business Journal: California Storage Maker Investing $5.7M in new plant
Business Facilities: California Closets Chooses West Michigan for Manufacturing Facility

West Michigan Service Workers Recognized with Essential Service Awards

Essential Service Award Winners
Essential Service Award Winners (left to right) back row: Dave Janes, Michael VanHouten, Kelly Brinker, Dave Smith - Chair of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board, front row: Yolanda Marble, Terry White, Julio Ignacio Caballero, Linda El (not pictured: Shela Jones, Lisa Vanderlaan and the staff at Martin Marathon)

On Monday, February 20th at the meeting of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, 10 West Michigan residents were recognized for going above and beyond in their jobs. The Essential Service Awards has recognized the outstanding work of front-line service providers for nine years.

“We often overlook the significant contributions that a virtually invisible workforce make to our community and our economy. The Essential Service Awards recognize exceptional individuals performing these less visible but essential jobs.”
– Dave Smith, Chair of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board

The awards highlight individuals who provide critical services that often go unnoticed and unrewarded, such as childcare providers, bus drivers or custodians. This year’s recipients were recognized in ten categories.

The winners of the 2016 Essential Service Awards by category are:


Linda El

According to her nomination, “Linda El has been a valued employee for Sylvia's Place for over 10 years. She has proven her ability to stay calm and resolved even in the most difficult of circumstances. She is truly a dependable "rock" for all of the staff here at Sylvia's Place.”

Dave Janes

According to Janes’ nomination, “Dave treats every customer as though they're the first of his day. Despite the length of the line, he spends as much time as needed to make sure each customer is served thoroughly. Sometimes I purposely don't use the self-service kiosk so I can interact with Dave! I leave the post office feeling great because of the kindness and compassion he exudes behind the counter.”

Yolanda "Pretty" Marble

Yolanda “Pretty” Marble is a cashier for the Muskegon Community College's Grab-n-Go. According to Yolanda’s nomination, “Her job is to sell food items to students, but she does so much more. Pretty knows our students, she engages in conversations with them, provides support to them. When you pass by the Grab-n-Go there is frequently a crowd of students engaged in conversation with Pretty. She supports then with words of encouragement with their classwork, finals, and in their personal lives. Feeling part of a community is important for college students. For many of our students, Pretty creates that community.”

Lisa Vanderlaan

Lisa Vanderlaan is a customer care representative for Muskegon Area Transit Systems. Lisa’s job is to schedule rides on the Go Bus, a county-wide transportation service for persons over age 60 with health issues or a disability. “Lisa is dedicated to helping this group of people,” said Lisa’s supervisor. “She will adjust their ride schedules to cut down the wait or ride time; she believes their time is just as valuable as anyone else’s. Lisa knows all the customers by their first name. Many times, the customers ask for Lisa to set their schedules.”

Customer Service Team at Martin Marathon

The staff at the Martin Marathon were nominated for the high level of customer service they provide. “When I step into the Martin Marathon I fully anticipate an engaging experience with dedicated staff,” said their nominator, a regular customer. “I visit the station each week to purchase gas cards, which can be a long and complicated process. Regardless of how busy they are, they work with me to get through our process and do so with patience and efficiency.”

Learn more about ESA> 

Money Management Workshop Coming to Kent County

The Michigan State University (MSU) Extension in Kent County is offering a free Money Management workshop series at our Franklin Service Center. This three-part series will cover topics like creating and managing spending plans, the importance of savings and investing, credit card use and paying off debt. Attendees will leave with the information and tools to better manage their financial resources, achieve their goals and increase their financial stability.

The workshop is offered at no cost, but pre-registration is required to participate. Contact Jinnifer Ortquest, MSU Extension Educator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 616-632-7874.

Learn More>

What: Money Management Series
Dates: March 15, 17 & 22
Time: 1 – 3 pm
Where: West Michigan Works! Franklin Service Center
            Kent County Human Services Complex
            121 Franklin St SE, Suite 120
            Grand Rapids, MI 49507

Service Center Delays

Due to the weather, the Michigan Works! Service Centers in Kent and Muskegon will open at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

2017 Skilled Trades Training Fund Awards

The State of Michigan recently announced its Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) awards for FY 2017.  Since 2013, the STTF has injected millions of dollars into the Michigan economy for short term training in high-demand occupations. The thirteen-county West Michigan region has historically received the highest award totals and this year was no exception.  Employers in West Michigan have been awarded more than $5.1 million in training funds. These employers are listed below by county. 

ALLEGAN - $628,738 in funding

Bay Valley Foods LLC

Coastal Automotive

Code Blue Corporation

Eclipse Tool & Die, Inc

Ely Manor

Haworth, Inc

K & R Truck Sales Inc

Koops Inc

MPF Acquisitions, Inc

Parker Hannifin Corporation

Perrigo Company - Allegan

Ropes Courses, Inc


Stampede Die and Engineering (Stampede Die Corp)

Trans-Matic Manufacturing Company

Uniform Color Company

Williams Tooling & Manufacturing, Inc

Windenmuller Electric, Inc


IONIA - $11,450 in funding

Metron Integrated Health Systems

Wiesen Inc


KENT - $2,322,325 in funding

Action Mold and Machining, Inc

American Seating Co

ArtiFlex Manufacturing

Autocam Precision Components Group

Autodie, LLC

Best Metal Products

Buist Electric

Butterball Farms, Inc

Cascade Die Casting Group - Great Lakes

Cascade Die Casting Group - Mid State

Challenge Manufacturing - Walker Location

Cherry Street Services, Inc dba Cherry Health

Commercial Tool and Die

Conical Tool

Country Fresh

CQL, Inc

Cresco Solutions, Inc

CUP Acquisition LLC dba Custom Profile

D+M Metal Products

Die Cad Group, Inc

Eikenhout Inc

Elevator Up LLC

Emerald Corporation

Engineered Tooling Systems, Inc

Gill Industries, Bond Facility

Gill Industries, Plainfield Facility

Health Net of West Michigan

Hearthside Food Solutions, LLC (H1)

Hearthside Food Solutions, LLC (H2)

Jireh Metal Products, Inc

Kenona Industries Inc

Lumbermen's Inc

Mark-Maker Company

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

Mercy Health

Metron Integrated Health Systems - Cedar Springs

Metron Integrated Health Systems - Forest Hills

Michigan Turkey Producers, Inc

Micron Mfg Company

NVINT Services LLC

Oliver Packaging and Equipment Company

Open Systems Technologies DE, LLC

Plasan Carbon Composites

Precision Aerospace Corp

Rapid Tooling Systems, Inc

Rest Haven Homes, Inc

SoundTech, Inc

Specialty Tooling Systems

Spectrum Health 

Steel Craft Technologies

Swoboda, Inc

Van Haren Electric

Walker Tool & Die, Inc

West Michigan International

West Thomas Partners, LLC (Gluten Free Bar)

Wilkast Inc

Williams Distributing Co.


MONTCALM  - $76,030 in funding

Federal Mogul

Greenville Tool & Die Co

Metron Integrated Health Systems – Greenville


MUSKEGON - $800,087 in funding

Anderson Global, Inc

Century Foundry, Inc

Dynamic Conveyor

Howmet Corporation (also known as Alcoa Howmet)

Johnson Technology

L-3 Combat Propulsion Systems


Mercy Health Partners

Scherdel Sales & Technology

Fleet Engineers

Motion Dynamics


OTTAWA COUNTY - $1,280,003 in funding

Active Manufacturing Corp

Altron Automation

Baumann Tool and Die

Benteler Automotive Aluminum

Carter Manufacturing Co., Inc

Competition Engineering

Composite Builders

DHE Plumbing and Mechanical

Driesenga & Associates

GNS America

H.S. Die & Engineering, Inc

Herman Miller

ITW Powertrain Metals (ITW Drawform)

Lauren Manufacturing

Magna Mirrors (Holland)

Magna Mirrors of America, Inc. dba Engineered Glass

Meridian, Inc.

Metron Integrated Health System - Lamont

MFP Automation Engineering


Parkway Electric & Communications, LLC

Royal Technologies

Shorescape Investments LLC

SoundOff Signal

Star Crane & Hoist, Inc

Transfer Tool Products



Yanfeng Automotive Interiors

DeWys Manufacturing


NPR of America

West Michigan Companies Receive Over $5 Million in Training Grants

For fiscal year 2017, more than $5 million in Skilled Trades Training Funds (STTF) have been awarded to companies in the seven county region serviced by West Michigan Works! This includes nine employers in Muskegon County that received more than $700,000 in grant funding. The STTF grants are expected to impact 257 current full-time employees and 233 new full-time, permanent employees in Muskegon County.

"This fund is an incredible resource for local businesses to invest in their workforce and increase efficiency and productivity by giving workers additional skills," said Ed Gardener, president and CEO of Muskegon Area First.

Read More>

Change to the Food Assistance Program in Kent and Ottawa Counties

Certain federal work requirements for able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 without dependents go back into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, in Kent and Ottawa Counties.

Able-bodied individuals may only receive food assistance benefits for up to three months within a 36-month period without meeting these work requirements. After that time, they will be required to work an average of 20 hours per week in unsubsidized employment, participate 20 hours per week in an approved employment and training program or participate in community service at a nonprofit organization to continue to receive food assistance.  More information>