2021 was another year for flexibility and adaptability, but it also required us to dig deep into depleted stores of energy, optimism and resources as we continued to deal with the stress of the pandemic and the realization that we’re not at the end of this long, protracted recovery. We are happy to report: West Michigan Works! rose to the challenge.

Understanding the State of the Workforce

At the beginning of the year, we launched our 2021 West Michigan Talent Survey. Conducted by the Calvin University Center for Social Research, the study was designed to help workforce development teams and employers better understand the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the West Michigan job market and workforce. The survey confirmed what we already knew – it’s complicated. There are many factors contributing to today’s labor market challenges and there will be no magic pill to ease the pain, but the survey gave us important insights that will inform our work to reengage the region’s workforce.

In March, we wrapped up our assistance with individuals who were struggling to access their unemployment benefits. Since spring 2020, we have been able to assist thousands of individuals across our region. After quickly shifting to virtual programs and workshops, our talent and youth solutions teams are now equipped to offer both in-person and virtual services, meeting job seekers wherever they are on their career journey. West Michigan Works! service centers were redesigned to provide a safe environment for individuals to access services in person.

Advocating for Employers and Job seekers

The past year provided opportunities to advocate for legislation affecting workforce services. In September, the governor signed a budget that included record funding for the Going PRO Talent Fund. Our business solutions staff submitted a record number of applications on behalf of West Michigan employers. The workforce system also fought hard to bring back the mandatory meeting between unemployment claimants and Michigan Works! Agencies. For many, this automatic connection is the only opportunity to learn about our services and is a critical step to meeting employers’ talent needs.  We are grateful to our legislators for their willingness to listen and respond.

Making an Impact in 2021

Even in a time of uncertainty and anxiety, we were there for our communities. In 2021:

  • 50,215 job seekers received services.
  • $418 million in wages were earned as a result.
  • 3,067 employers received services.
  • 8,080 jobs were filled.

To learn more about our regional impact in 2021, check out our 2021 Annual Report.