Today’s workforce is rapidly changing with a demand for increasingly sophisticated and technologically advanced skill sets — particularly in the skilled and professional trades.

Jeremy Helton is a megatronics apprentice at Pollard Banknote, Ltd., in Ypsilanti who receives training at Washtenaw Community College. His apprenticeship is funded through the state’s Going PRO Talent Fund.

“With the shortage of qualified people to work in skilled trades, companies really have to grow their own,” says Pollard Banknote Human Resources Coordinator Julie Stone. “The long-term benefits of an apprenticeship are huge. And having financial support from the Going PRO Talent Fund is extremely helpful.”

This dynamic has created a crucial need for companies to implement training programs designed to equip employees with the required skills to allow the companies to operate successfully.

To address this demand, the Workforce Development department at Washtenaw Community College has partnered with hundreds of companies across the region to provide training programs that address current skill gaps.

“We offer more than 150 courses across a wide spectrum of topics to address skill gaps companies are facing,” said Raymond Tate, business development manager in the college’s Workforce Development department. “Our programs are rooted in the latest technologies and business principles and offered either here at the college or at a company’s headquarters.”

The college now partners with the Going PRO Talent Fund — a program affiliated with the state’s Talent and Economic Development Department.

The fund provides employers with financial support to assist them in training, developing and retaining current and newly hired employees.

Applications are made to the state’s Workforce Development Agency and funds are awarded through Michigan’s workforce system, the Michigan Works! Agencies.

Saline-based Sensors, Inc. was awarded Going PRO funding by Michigan Works! Southeast and turned to WCC to design and implement a comprehensive training program for its management team.

The company specializes in portable emissions measurement systems and is a leader in developing gas analysis technology across the world.

“WCC’s staff has bent over backwards to make sure our experience has been great. The training has been well-received by everyone who has taken it,” said Sara Harper, manager of human resources at Sensors, Inc. “WCC will be my go-to vendor for future trainings.”

Tate said training programs like the one at Sensors Inc. are customized to meet the specific needs of the company.

“Our department plays a crucial role in ensuring the state has a sustainable amount of trained workers with necessary and in-demand skill sets,” Tate said. “I encourage companies of all types and sizes to contact the college to learn more about its Workforce Development programs.”

Projections by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget’s Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives show Michigan will experience a professional trades workforce gap of more than 811,000 openings through 2024 in several high-demand, high-wage careers in information technology, computer science, health care, manufacturing and other industries.

“The whole purpose of a community college is to be the economic driver for the region it serves,” said WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca. “I’ve held many conversations with business and industry leaders and asked them what they need to sustain a trained workforce. They all stressed they need employees with skill sets relevant to today’s technologies and processes.

“The main mission of our Workforce Development department is to provide employers with customized trainings rooted in the requisite skills. By doing so, WCC is helping to bridge the state’s talent gap and providing a crucial contribution to keep the state’s economy strong and vibrant.”