Challenge of Excellence Awards - Winners

Employer of the Year: UAW-Ford Training Center

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

The UAW-Ford Technical Training Center (TTC) in Lincoln Park is committed to exposing young people to skilled trades and providing welding training for veterans.

In addition to training apprenticeship employees, UAW-Ford TTC staff help train youth and veterans. They recently launched a summer skilled trades training program for high school students and young adults, along with a welding program for veterans.    

The five-week skilled trades training is provided at no cost to SEMCA’s WIOA Youth Program participants. The training program exposes students to up-to-date technology and current skilled trade career options. Youth are set up in a paid work experience, and they are expected to treat this training like a real job.   

Training instructors are journeypersons who are passionate about teaching young people the trades.The curriculum includes instruction and hands-on activities in CNC/machining.    

The 2015 training had 11 students and a mentor/teachers’ assistant, a former student and current Engineering Technology student at Central Michigan University.   

The UAW-Ford TTC also provides welding training to veterans and accepts veterans from all over the country. The veterans are taught various welding methods and job placement services are provided.    

The UAW-Ford TTC is making a difference in the lives of youth and veterans by utilizing their training center to inspire, engage, empower, and make a difference in the world.

Employer of the Year: Pinecrest Medical Care Facility

Nominated by: UPWARD Talent Council

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility works hand in hand with Michigan Works! to grow their business and serve the community. 

Pinecrest’s leadership is active on the Talent District Career Council, an Upper Peninsula (UP)-wide educational advisory group, prior to that serving as co-chair of the UP Educational Advisory Group. 

Pinecrest acquires talent using Michigan Works!. All jobs are posted through the Michigan Works! Business Service’s team, who locates the talent through interactions in Michigan Works! Service Centers.

This organization is also active on the Upper Peninsula Healthcare Round Table. The Roundtable has been in operation since 2002 and has seen enormous success in the reduction of job vacancies, especially in the area of nursing. 

Its overall mission is to create a workforce to meet the Upper Peninsula health care industry needs by attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce. 

The roundtable also launches strategies aimed at improving the collective competitive viability of the full healthcare system across the U.P.

Pinecrest supports talent development activities by hosting talent tours, allowing students to tour their facilities and learn about future job opportunities in the healthcare industry.

They have also piloted an innovative new U.P. project that will live-stream talent tours to students across the Upper Peninsula. 

Shining Star Award: Devin Gray, Southeast Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA) Michigan Works!

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

At SEMCA, we are fortunate to have a number of shining stars. There is one, however, that has stood out this year and that is Devin Gray.

Devin was the lead Business Services Representative in SEMCA for Work-Based Training opportunities and assists for Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) awards.

Devin also increased the number of employers served by over 350. His contributions to serving businesses and job seekers are strategic and innovative. He uses his superior marketing skills to help develop, re-define and implement outreach and recruitment tools for many of our programs.

Always a team player, Devin consistently extends himself to others, whether that means providing support and assistance or sharing the secrets to success.

Devin is a self-starter, who uses his creativity and effectiveness to serve our customers, including implementing a number of strategic ideas to help expand customer access and improve service delivery for both employers and job seekers:

In addition to his hard work and dedication to the system, Devin brings a sense of humor, grace, kindness and enthusiasm that is contagious and we feel privileged to work with such a dynamic person.  

Volunteer of the Year: Tom Begin, Consumers Energy

Nominated by: Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works!

Tom Begin is Director of Public Affairs for Consumers Energy. He has been a volunteer Board member supporting Michigan Works! since 2007.   

At the local and regional level, he is the immediate past Chair of the Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board, and continues as an active member on that Board. 

Tom also serves as a member of the Region 5 Talent District Career Council.  He has served as the Chair of the Workforce Board's Strategic Planning Committee, Budget & Finance Committee, and Program & Performance Committee. 

His leadership has been a key factor in Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works!'s evolution towards a high quality demand driven, employer service organization. 

And, through his guidance Great Lakes Bay has implemented innovative performance metrics to monitor its impact on the regional economy.   

At the state level, Tom serves on the Michigan Works! Association Board of Directors, and the Governor's Talent Investment Board.  He is well known by our State Legislators, and he has been active and effective in meeting with them on our behalf. 

Many of the Michigan Works! Directors have witnessed Tom giving strong public endorsement of our System directly to Governor Snyder. 

He is a strong advocate for the Michigan Works! System.       

Tom has also been active on the national level. He, along with the Chair of the Charlotte, North Carolina Workforce Board and the President of the National Association of Workforce Boards, were the three original signatories on our National Association's June 2013 letter to the U.S. Senate advocating for reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, which ultimately help lead to bipartisan adoption of our new federal legislation the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act.    

Since 2007, Tom Begin has been a strong leader and advocate for the workforce investment system locally, regionally, statewide, and nationally.

Ralph Loeschner Outstanding Service: John Almstadt, Oakland County Michigan Works!

Nominated by: Oakland County Michigan Works!

With over 37 years with Oakland County Workforce Development/Oakland County Michigan Works!, John Almstadt is a community leader, expert in workforce development programs, and committed to the overall success of residents and businesses in Oakland County and throughout the region.

John served as the Director of the Oakland County Michigan Works! Agency, but also a a community leader in the City of Pontiac and served on several boards, including Automation Alley.

John's vast knowledge and experience administering workforce development programs is unparalleled, as he is highly regarded statewide as an expert in federal workforce legislation.

Board of Excellence: Networks Northwest

Nominated by: Networks Northwest

The Networks Northwest Board is the state’s first Regional Prosperity Board - a combination of elected officials, educators, other public representatives, and private business representatives.

This body represents the epitome of the qualities this award recognizes: locally responsive, demand driven, strategic, innovative and collaborative. 

The Northwest region has a long history of public and private partnership, along with administrative consolidation of multiple regional functions into one organization.

Their historic reasons for consolidation have been economy of scale, administrative efficiencies, and most importantly, a bigger-picture approach to issues related to talent, business and community development.

In 2014, the local elected officials, board and Workforce Development Board had a strong desire to take their strategic collaboration to an innovative new level. Without any complex legal maneuvers, the two boards entered into an agreement to do business together as a joint board.

Together they discuss and advise on strategic economic topics that are all inter-related.

They changed the name of the organization at the same time to represent a regionally driven initiative that brings all these economic-related topics, each with multiple significant players, into a comprehensive and collaborative network. 

Having experts on all these various topics working on the board level to represent their respective sectors’ concerns and needs makes for a much higher level of strategic conversation and leadership.

It also lends itself to a deepening understanding of how all these topics inter-relate and depend upon each other for long-term economic vitality.

The Networks Northwest Board has stepped forward in a big way to advance the quality of life and economic well-being of its region.

Legislator of the Year: Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba)

Nominated by: UPWARD Talent Council

The utilization of video conferencing to cut down on travel time and make doing business more efficient and effective in the Upper Peninsula (UP) has been catching on across the region. 

Even our state Senator, Tom Casperson, has been taking advantage of the technology in order to allow voters in the UP to testify at his committee hearings.

Casperson has the distinction of being one of only two state senators to chair two Senate policy committees. He serves as chair of the Transportation Committee and the Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.

In addition, he is a member of the Senate’s Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee and the Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee.

Additionally, Casperson serves as the Chair of the Legislative Natural Recourse Caucus and is a member of the Legislative Waterways Caucus.

Since taking office as a state senator, Casperson has introduced a wide variety of bills, with 25 of those bills signed into law during his first term in the Senate.

With the large geographical area he serves and the heavy workload he carries, the Senator has worked diligently to “do business smarter” and to engage his constituency in the legislative process.  One tool he uses as often as possible is video conferencing.

By utilizing this technology, more Upper Peninsula residents are able to testify about the issues that impact them on a day to day basis without having to travel the long distance to Lansing. 

In the past, few UP citizens were able to weigh in at committee hearings and the senator has eliminated that key barrier. We appreciate his hard work and his efforts to bridge the gap between our peninsulas.