Challenge of Excellence Awards - Winners

Employer of the Year: Mercy Health

Nominated by: West Michigan Works!

Mercy Health is committed to developing a pipeline of skilled and competent healthcare talent as evidenced by their partnership with West Michigan Works! in the creation of the USDOL medical assistant and sterile processing apprenticeship programs and the nationally recognized Career Pathways initiative, as well as their efforts to promote diversity in hiring among the construction partners in the multi-million dollar Mercy construction project in Muskegon, Michigan.

These programs have significantly increased the number of viable candidates for healthcare positions in West Michigan and have garnered attention across Michigan and the nation. With the Career Pathways initiative alone, Mercy Health – in partnership with West Michigan Works!, local community colleges, national and community partners – commits to engaging more diverse candidates for healthcare and construction professions.    

Mercy Health played a foundational role in the creation of the Medical Assistant Registered Apprenticeship Program (MARAP)—a first of its kind in the nation—which created opportunities for individuals who would have otherwise had significant barriers to entry in the healthcare field.

Through a strong collaborative effort with West Michigan Works!, other West Michigan health systems and local community colleges, MARAP opens doors to a diverse group of individuals and provides wrap-around supports to those with more significant barriers to employment.   

Mercy Health serves as a best practice for organizations across West Michigan. They are deeply committed to creating and hiring from a diverse pool of talent that represents the community they serve.

“We have increased the diversity of our employees by about 60% over the last 5 years,” said Shana Welch, Regional Director, Talent Acquisition. Their talent acquisition efforts have reduced turnover of new hires from 25% to 18% with significant annual savings.

Shining Star Award: Lester Gayden, Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation

Nominated by: Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation

Lester Gayden began his career in workforce development more than 15 years ago when he took on the challenge of facilitating the development of customized training opportunities leading to permanent employment for job seekers with disabilities. 

His transition from coordinating customized training programs to supervising case managers in one of Detroit’s busiest One-Stops was perfectly aligned with his motivation to learn more about the employment needs of the long-term unemployed and the barriers impacting their employment retention.

Lester worked long hours reviewing files and meeting with customers to ensure that his team accurately assessed for need, developed quality service plans, and followed through on all service components necessary to ensure customer success. His efforts led his center to being the highest contributor to training enrollment and job placement across Detroit’s public workforce system.

Despite his many years of experience and success, Lester's performance as DESC’s Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) Program Manager is the main reason behind his nomination this year. 

His demonstrated abilities in providing effective leadership and implementing turnaround strategies that transformed a program facing challenges into one receiving national recognition for excellence (exceeding all program goals in one year), is unmatched by any other DESC program staff performance this year. The program year 2016 saw 500 youth served, with a 100% dropout-prevention rate and 96% high school graduation, and with youth securing scholarships totaling over $4.5MM. Significantly, this success has been achieved at schools identified as being among the lowest performing in Detroit.

Lester’s success is a great example of what happens when people, opportunity, encouragement, and unwavering commitment, perfectly align. His body of work epitomizes what Michigan Works! stands for.

Volunteer of the Year: Jane Doty, CAMW! Workforce Development Board/H&H Restaurants, Inc.

Nominated by: Captial Area Michigan Works!

Jane Doty has been a steady supporter of the Michigan Works! System, serving on the board since 1998.

Doty and her family have been pillars of the community since the 1960s, fueling the economy and helping make Lansing what it is today. Her family opened the first Burger King in Lansing in 1965. In 1980, her parents turned the day-to-day operations over to their three daughters and sons-in-law.

By 1990, Doty and her sisters bought H&H Restaurants, Inc. from their parents, and she was appointed president of the company. They sold the operations of the six restaurants in 1996 and H&H Restaurants became landlords.

During that time, Doty served on the Eaton County Community Corrections Board, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Board and became a member of what was then called the Private Industry Council.

In 1997, Doty and her husband opened a construction company, real estate/development company. They built and sold homes, commercial buildings and churches in the Lansing area, Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Arizona City, Arizona.

Doty began as the Capital Area Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board chair in 1998. Today, her family owns a used car shop in Charlotte.

To honor her work for CAMW!, Doty received the Leonard Peters Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

The Leonard Peters Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2008 in recognition of those who have given a lifetime of outstanding service to CAMW! Doty has not only been an asset to CAMW! but to the region as a whole. Without her commitment and support, CAMW! wouldn’t be what it is today.

Ralph Loeschner Outstanding Service: Orrin Bailey, UPWARD Talent Council

Nominated by: Captial Area Michigan Works!, Kinexus and Michigan Works! Northeast Consortium

Orrin Bailey is a well-respected individual within the Michigan Works! Association and has been an advocate for the workforce system since 1978.

He is committed to ensuring long term success for residents across the state and has played a significant role in driving Michigan’s economy forward. Orrin served as the CEO of the UPWARD Talent Council for nearly 25 years.    

Under Orrin’s leadership, UPWARD Talent Council was responsible for strategic workforce development activities and delivery of Human Resource services to regional businesses and individuals in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, covering more than 17,000 square miles for approximately 310,000 residents.    

The UPWARD Talent Council’s mission and theme focus on Economic Prosperity, Everyone Works! The organization helps businesses create and retain good jobs; prepares workers for jobs; and improves Michigan's business climate through the Workforce Development System.

During Orrin’s tenure, Michigan Works! received much recognition and numerous awards from national, state and local entities.   

In addition to his service at various Michigan Works! organizations throughout the state, Orrin holds a variety of offices and memberships that emphasize his commitment to workforce development.

Orrin has devoted his knowledge and experience to the workforce system throughout his career and is an outstanding advocate for all of those who work in economic, workforce, or community development. 

Board of Excellence: Southeast Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA) Michgian Works! Workforce Development Board

Nominated by: Southeast Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA) Michigan Works!

For more than 20 years, Southeast Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA) has been privileged to have seated at their table community leaders that have generously given of their time to guide SEMCA in its success. Some of those members have been with us since the beginning.

They are a strategic board and although our meetings are informative, it is also an opportunity to share best practices and develop possible collaborations, like the apprenticeship opportunity with the Operating Engineers, which was for Detroit residents only and has been expanded to our Highland Park residents. Recently a visitor noted in a letter to SEMCA that she was impressed with how engaged our board is on the issues.   

They come from small and large businesses, community-based organizations, labor organizations and are former and current educators. They understand the urgency in filling the skills gaps and importance of training tomorrow's workforce.

They share their knowledge as board members for other Michigan Works! Agencies, the Michigan Works! Association, the National Association of Workforce Boards and the Governor's Talent and Investment Board. They sit on planning committees that are important to our youth such as the Michigan College Access Network and Manufacturing Day. They provide tours of their businesses, attend award ceremonies and competitions, encouraging our youth and showing them that they care about their futures.  

Over the last year, they graciously gave of their time to help SEMCA develop their five-year strategic plan, and their knowledge and expertise were an integral part of SEMCA receiving its re-accreditation with the Council on Accreditation.

Currently, they are volunteering their time to write letters and meet with our legislators, both here in Michigan and in Washington D.C., to educate legislators on the importance of the WIOA Act and why we need to keep or increase our funding.

Whenever SEMCA staff asks, the SEMCA Workforce Development Board answers.   

Legislator of the Year: Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland)

Nominated by: Michigan Works! Northeast Consortium

Senator Jim Stamas is a champion of workforce legislation, as evidenced by his support of the Good Jobs for Michigan Initiative legislation and support of the Skilled Trades Training Fund. Jobs and education are his priority.   

He is always willing to listen to workforce development concerns and eager to hear about the successes of Michigan Works! programs. Stamas is a strong supporter of the System and truly believes in what Michigan Works! can do and the impact we have in our communities.    

The senator is very involved in his communities and focused on serving his constituents. Stamas visits organizations and groups across his 10 counties despite the immense travel involved and has made an effort to attend Workforce Development Board meetings. 

He doesn’t just “walk-the-walk” – he is sincere in his involvement and fully present in his meetings with community groups, private citizens, and workforce partners. In fact, Senator Stamas has acted as the liaison in bringing local businesses and small business partners (such as PTAC) together.

Senator Stamas is an advocate of access to education, including post-secondary and K-12. He recently visited the Michigan Works! office in East Tawas to see the unique partnership between Michigan Works! Region 7B and IRESA, providing education services to at-risk youth and adults returning to complete their education.   

Senator Stamas continues to visit constituents while on vacation, including touring northern Michigan small businesses to engage local leaders about economic development issues.