By Becky Spaulding
On Monday, January 24, a Michigan New Jobs Training Agreement (MNJTA) was approved by Grand Rapids Community College’s Board of Trustees. The agreement allows a partnership between GRCC’s Workforce Training and LG Chem Ltd., one of the world’s leading suppliers of lithium-ion batteries.
The 850,000 square foot LG Chem plant broke ground in Holland last year, and is expected to become fully operational in 2012. The company will initially mainly produce batteries for the Chevrolet Volt, named “Green Car of the Year” by Green Car Journal, according to the Chevrolet website.
GRCC’s sixth Michigan new jobs agreement, the partnership will be the largest project to date, according to GRCC President, Steven Ender.
“(The agreement) demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the manufacturing and business communities,” he said. “GRCC is here to help prepare workers for these types of highly specialized jobs.”
The agreement will allow GRCC faculty and staff to work with industry experts to design the training necessary for students to perform the tasks the jobs will entail, according to Julie Parks, Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development at GRCC.
“This agreement allows LG Chem, over the next 20 years, to use funds to train their workforce for today and to get the ‘pipeline’ ready for the technology and industry changes that are to come,” she said. “GRCC will work with LG Chem to design long-term training plans to make sure their workforce is ready for whatever changes come to their industry.”
Parks characterizes LG Chem as “an advanced energy storage company.”
“(Students who are hired) will start with lithium-ion battery manufacturing, but as that market grows and changes they will be working in many different energy storage technologies,” she said.
By 2013, between 300 and 400 jobs are estimated to be created, and the 20-year goal is around 3000.
The agreement also provides GRCC staff and students a chance to learn about new technologies that are growing and expanding as time goes on.
“For GRCC, (the agreement) will offer opportunities for our students to have internships and job shadowing opportunities in this new industry,” Parks said. “It will allow our faculty to see the new skill sets and technologies and to incorporate those into our curriculum.”
The Workforce Training department has been working to set up agreements such as this one for 15 years, according to Parks.
“(Workforce Training) works with companies to meet their workforce needs and to pass on skill requirements for new industries to the college,” she said. “The new legislation is a tool to help us and companies in Michigan continue to develop their workforce.”
GRCC staff members were brought in while Lakeshore Advantage, Holland and Zeeland’s Economic Development Organization, was working to recruit LG Chem.
“Through this recruitment process, and Randy Thelen at Lakeshore Advantage, when the time was right our staff was able to present this Michigan New Jobs training option to them,” Parks said.
“This is a great way for GRCC to get an early entry into an industry with great promise,” Parks said. “Our students, faculty, and staff will benefit directly from this long-term arrangement with LG Chem. This is another way that GRCC positively impacts the whole region.”