A group of agencies serving Newaygo County has formed a task force to address declining participation in the workforce as well as employee development and retention.

The Newaygo County Workforce Development Task Force grew out of conversations between local agencies regarding the support systems in place to help local workers be successful. A key focus was going beyond skills training and addressing the barriers that kept people from remaining in the workforce.

Task force members now include Fremont Area Community Foundation, Michigan Works! West Central, Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency, Newaygo County Economic Development Office in association with The Right Place, TrueNorth, and United Way of the Lakeshore-Newaygo County.

An important part of the task force’s early work has been examining data on local employment and the workforce. A report was commissioned from Talent 2025—a CEO-led initiative covering 13 West Michigan counties—to shine light on the current state of our local workforce.

The Talent 2025 report found that while Newaygo County is experiencing a low unemployment rate on par with the state and nation, almost 41 percent of local households are not able to cover basic living expenses. This limits the ability of the workers in these households to advance their skills and increase their income. It also contributes to high rates of turnover in local businesses as employees struggle with unreliable transportation or childcare or change jobs to earn ten cents more an hour, for example.

Another key finding was the decline in Newaygo County’s labor participation rate, or the number of adults ages 25-54 who are either employed or looking for work. In 2009, Newaygo County had an 81 percent labor participation rate. In 2014, it had fallen to 76 percent. For many individuals who are available and willing to work but not currently in the workforce, the major barriers are lack of transportation, skills and knowledge required for work, and childcare.

Based on this research, the task force is now developing an approach to engage the business community as a crucial partner in implementing solutions to help people become successful in the workforce and to fulfill the talent needs of local employers.

“Our first role was the identification of our current status, and our second is to develop programming, connections, and relationships to work together to fill the gaps,” said Mark Guzniczak, business development coordinator with NCEDO and The Right Place. “We have identified opportunities to improve the employability culture of Newaygo County, and now we’re building collaborations to maximize that opportunity in an actionable way.”

The complete Talent 2025 report is now available to the public and can be found at facommunityfoundation.org/news.

Back to Press Releases