OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP — Nearly 12 years ago, Kalamazoo Valley Community College opened a work force training center at a business park called The Groves, just south of I-94 and a few miles north of its main campus.

The $11 million building was financed by a $5 million grant from the Michigan Jobs Commission (today known as the Michigan Economic Development Corp.) and $6 million from area companies and foundations. It bore the same name as 17 other job training buildings that popped up across the state at the time — M-TEC, for Michigan Technical Education Center.

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Now, the building is being renamed to the Kalamazoo Valley Groves Center.

“We believe that the name the Kalamazoo Valley Groves Center helps to more accurately convey the scope of activities housed in this facility,” said Jim DeHaven, vice president for economic and business development at KVCC. “What we offer has evolved far beyond the original concept for the facility. The training we offer in this building has truly become “the center” of our talent and business development activities.”

In addition to customized training developed in cooperation with employers and professional development classes, the Kalamazoo Valley Groves Center personnel has worked with industry partners and others to develop specialized training for so-called “middle-skill” careers.

“One of the strengths of community colleges is that they are agile, responsive, and can move at the speed of the private sector,” said KVCC President Marilyn Schlack. “We have mastered the art of staying on top of fast-changing technologies and can quickly develop the curricula in such fields in a very cost-effective way.”

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Paying for higher education continues to rank as a top concern for parents and students; having an educated work force skilled to meet the demands of a changing economy is a central focus for policymakers as well. Community colleges receive just 27 percent of total public dollars spent on public higher education but serve 43 percent of students, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

“Federal data indicates that middle-skill jobs account for roughly half of all jobs,” said DeHaven. “Currently manufacturers across the country and especially in Michigan are reporting moderate to severe shortages of qualified workers to hire into such jobs. In response, we have developed specific career academies to help meet these needs.”

Examples of these career academies include the Wind Turbine Technician Academy, a training program designed to assure that graduating students have demonstrated mastery of core technical skills essential to performing effectively and safely as an entry-level wind turbine technician. Graduates of the program are going on to high-paying careers across the country.

The recently launched Production Technician Academy, which was developed in cooperation with the Southwest Michigan Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, is another example of public-private partnerships enhancing the region’s talent base. The Production Technician Academy is a competency-based training program designed to prepare graduates for successful, long-term careers in the new advanced manufacturing environment.

The complete list of career academies and how students can apply for entry is available at www.kvcc.edu/training.

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More information is available at www.kvccgrovescenter.com.