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Community college plans Center for Automation to boost talent pipeline

Training hub will help students pursuing jobs in advanced manufacturing and automation.

A local community college unveiled plans for a hub to train the next generation of advanced manufacturing and automation workers. 

Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) announced late last week, alongside U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten, it plans to create a $998,000 Center for Automation. 

The new Center for Automation will serve as a training hub for students pursuing high-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing and automation, as well as those already working in the field who need additional training or credentials for promotion.

According to a statement by GRCC, Peters secured $998,000 through the government funding bill signed into law in December to create the project, which will enhance GRCC’s career training programs geared toward the future of manufacturing in Michigan and support the college’s efforts to meet regional workforce demands. 

“Grand Rapids Community College excels at preparing students for successful careers and obtaining good-paying, in-demand jobs and with employers based right here in West Michigan,” Peters said. “I was proud to secure new federal resources to create a new, state-of-the-art, and fully automated training facility that will help elevate GRCC’s skills training programs and support their efforts to cement Michigan’s leadership in advanced manufacturing.”

The Center for Automation is planned to start operating in time for the fall 2023 semester. GRCC hopes the center will expand its efforts to meet local and state-wide workforce needs by preparing students for jobs such as automotive technicians, computer support technicians, construction electricians, machinist/CNC technicians, welding/fabrication technicians and medical assistants.

“Investment in education is critical to the future of our country and state. Grand Rapids Community College has long led the charge of making quality, world-class education affordable and accessible for West Michiganders — I’m happy to see that tradition continuing on,” Scholten said. “Investment in our students and in the next generation is so important — it’s a priority in West Michigan. I’m eager to get to work on projects and initiatives like these in the future in collaboration with Sen. Peters and my colleagues from the Michigan delegation.”

GRCC President Charles Lepper last week led Peters and Scholten on a tour of the Leslie Tassell M-TEC workforce training center, joined by Neil Ruster, CEO of Urgent Tool and Machine. The Grand Rapids firm is one of GRCC’s industry partners in regional workforce development.

“The fields of automation and artificial intelligence are evolving and expanding, creating new and exciting careers to meet the needs of today and drive change for the future,” Lepper said. “GRCC is proud to work with our partners in the government, like Sen. Peters, and with employers for an automation and AI lab that will help build a talented workforce, give people valuable skills and strengthen the economy in West Michigan and beyond.”

This new project will be the latest in a series of workforce development initiatives at GRCC, aimed at putting West Michigan students in the state’s talent pool. Recently, GRCC and University of Michigan Health-West partnered for a nursing program, months after the college earned a $2.9 million grant to increase its health care programming and partnered with Dell Technologies and Intel for its artificial intelligence education programs.