Feb. 6, 2018 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. —The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded Grand Rapids Community College a $1 million grant to expand programs that connect vulnerable populations with careers in public works and health care.
The grant will support GRCC’s new Foundations to the Future project, which will target Grand Rapids residents who have low incomes, are single parents, have no or low employment, and who are ready to make changes to get high-quality jobs. Challenges such as gender and racial barriers, and criminal backgrounds, are also considered. Participants in the program will undergo skill assessments and receive training and coaching to move them into careers.
"This is great news for the GRCC family and the West Michigan community," said President Bill Pink. "The Kellogg Foundation has been a valued partner of our college for many years, and these funds allow us to serve more individuals by providing them with workforce skills, and our local employers with skilled talent."
The grant will allow GRCC to work with the city of Grand Rapids and Kent County on a "Public Works Academy," which will give residents skills that are now in demand for emerging municipal projects, and help these organizations find the next generation of individuals to support West Michigan’s infrastructure. The academy, which will target careers in planning, parks and recreation, wastewater treatment, green infrastructure, traffic control, heavy equipment, road work and automotive repair, will include apprenticeships and skilled trades training.
“This new partnership with West Michigan municipalities to diversify their workforce and create opportunities for individuals living in our city promises to make a significant impact on our community,” said Julie Parks, executive director Workforce Training. “These are careers with great income potential.”
GRCC will also use the grant funding to strengthen a program that combines workforce training with language skills to help those for whom English is not a native language.
Luis Hernandez heard about GRCC's Machinist/CNC for ESL program from a relative.
“I thought to myself: 'What have I gotten into?’" Hernandez said. "But I really liked the program. The class was nice and small. We all worked easily together, and the instructor was so helpful and supportive.
“This program changed my life. It opened doors for me and now I am a machine apprentice. I feel like now I have a career, not just a job.”
The grant will also allow GRCC to expand efforts to connect residents with entry-level jobs in health care.
In addition to the city of Grand Rapids and Kent County, GRCC will work on these programs with community partners that include the Urban League, the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, LINC UP, the Literacy Center of West Michigan, the West Michigan Health Employers Career Council, and Holland Home.
“We work with many partners across West Michigan, which allow us to create sustainable and comprehensive programs that just make sense,” Pink said. “We are all working toward the same goal – improving the quality of life of adults, families and children in our neighborhoods by providing skills that lead to living-wage employment – and this initiative will bring us all closer to that goal.”
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.
Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.