Proposed college equipment fund pushed to address Michigan’s talent problem

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Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan community colleges are pushing for a fund to buy equipment that they say would bolster a trained and talented workforce.

The $250 million equipment fund would be “one-time money,” coming from the $11 billion federal stimulus funding that organizations across the state are competing to get, said Michael Hansen, the president of the Michigan Community College Association. 

“Everybody’s got a long list of priorities that they think the governor and Legislature should be spending this money on,” Hansen said.

Community colleges are especially interested in buying equipment to develop programs in a variety of fields. Notably, it wants to equip cardiovascular technician programs, establishing the first ones in Michigan, said Amy Lee, the executive dean of collaborative programs at the association.

Lansing Community College, Mid Michigan College, West Shore Community College and Grand Rapids Community College are some of the schools  interested in implementing the cardiovascular tech program, she said.

Ideally, the cardiovascular programs would begin in fall 2022. Each would require two humanlike mannequins and tables that cost $600,000, Lee said. 

“It’s just challenging because the cost of the equipment to operate these programs is really a barrier for our community colleges,” Lee said. 

The program would be available to students at any of the 28 community colleges around the state, making it both collaborative and accessible, Lee said. 

“Whatever it is technologywise, equipmentwise, we need to outfit our higher education institutions with really good equipment,” said Sen. Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth, who’s pushing the fund. 

Horn referred to Ford Motor Co.’s recent investment of $11 billion to build new plants in Kentucky and Tennessee, creating nearly 11,000 jobs.

A variety of factors — land, energy, supply chain — went into Ford’s  decision, said John Walsh, president of the Michigan Manufacturers Association.

But an especially significant one is  Kentucky’s and Tennessee’s  trained workforce.

“The question for us as the state of Michigan to ask and answer is, ‘Why?’” Horn said. 

Talent development is the primary issue for employers, he said. Investing in colleges is crucial because they play the biggest role in transforming the workforce.

“We have to make investments into our infrastructure,” Horn said. “We have to build factories and roads and bridges. But we have to invest in our human infrastructure as well, and that means training people.”  

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