In March 2023, West Michigan Works! CEO Jacob Maas testified in front of the House Ways and Means Commitee on the proposed Wagner-Peyser Act Staffing rule from the U.S. Employment and Training Administration. The rule change would require all states to ensure Wagner-Peyser activities are being performed by State Merit Based employees only.
The proposed rule change would have a devastating impact on the structure and delivery of workforce services in Michigan. It would remove an integral piece of Michigan’s nationally recognized service delivery system and dismantle a proven workforce development model. This will leave job seekers and employers with a disjointed, inefficient structure with little to services and fewer staff to supply them.
Proven model for success
West Michigan Works! has been highlighted by the Department of Labor as a promising practice: State
Strategies for Advancing Apprenticeships; Expanding Apprenticeships to Meet Talent Needs of Businesses and highlighted in a recent Department of Labor case study: Supporting Economic Growth through Local Workforce Development Board Sponsorship of Registered Apprenticeship Programs. The organization has also been recognized nationally, statewide and locally for its innovative work and partnerships by the National Association of Workforce Boards, National Association of Workforce Development Professionals, State of Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, State of Michigan Veterans Services, the Michigan Works! Association, chambers of commerce, intermediate school districts (ISDs) and community colleges.
In 2022 West Michigan Works!:
• Served approximately 39,500 job seekers and 2,800 employers.
• Assisted in filling over 9,700 jobs.
• Held the standards for 33 U.S. Dept of Labor Apprenticeships which graduated 237 apprentices, had 136 active apprentices, and served 93 employers.
• Provided backbone support to five robust industry-led collaboratives (manufacturing, construction, health, agribusiness and technology).
• Provided 37 formal presentations and consulting meetings on innovative program delivery and organizational structure to numerous national organizations and associations, state departments, workforce investment boards and community-based organizations.
Limited access to crucial services
West Michigan Works! leverages several funding sources to best serve job seekers and employers. This integrated delivery model consistently meets or exceeds all performance measures and outcome goals. Under the proposed changes Michigan Works! would no longer be eligible for Employment Service (Wagner-Peyser) funds, and instead, State of Michigan staff would deliver the services. This would end Michigan’s longstanding employment services delivery model which uses local staff to ensure quick and efficient responses. We anticipate at least 20 of the 99 Michigan Works! American Job Centers will be forced to close, primarily those serving rural communities
Impact on Michigan businesses
There would be a dramatic reduction of business services from Michigan Works! Agencies, including:
• 88% decrease in assistance with recruiting and retention services.
• 100% elimination of job fairs.
• 87% cut of support for industry-led collaboratives.
Impact on Michigan residents
Michigan residents who are most vulnerable would lose critical workforce services:
• 80% reduction in services to Veterans.
• 62% elimination and 18% reduction in immigrant and refugee navigator services.
• 63% elimination and 31% reduction in Clean Slate services for formerly incarcerated people.
• 86% reduction of the more than 9,000 career awareness events we coordinate — including the award-winning MiCareerQuest events.
Impact on Michigan unemployment
If implemented, the new staffing rule would also result in job loss in the Michigan Works! system, estimated at the loss of 220 full-time equivalents. This total loss of Wagner-Peyser funding would result in staffing funds that are currently distributed among more than 400 staff with different skills and specialties being cut down to 100 full-time state merit staff who will have to assume a caseload of nearly 1,000 people a year without the direct connections to other programs or funds to serve them.