August 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

More jobs for Michigan

Voters across the state of Michigan and across the nation are being bombarded this election season with urgent campaign messages, negative advertisements and some of the most intense partisan rancor we’ve seen in years.

But amidst the turmoil and the constant, angry battles between the two major political parties, Republicans and Democrats recently put their differences aside to help local job providers — and unemployed Michiganians — by passing the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

The landmark legislation, which President Barack Obama signed into law last week, modernizes and streamlines existing federal workforce development programs to help workers gain the skills they need to fill the jobs Michigan businesses have to offer, and helps give Michigan companies a competitive advantage in the global economy.

Under the old system, the federal government used a scattershot approach with nearly 40 different programs approaching workforce development in nearly 40 different ways. Under WIOA, 15 programs are eliminated completely.

It is a perfect complement to the demand-driven economic development model introduced by Gov. Rick Snyder and implemented by Michigan Works!

Here in Michigan, we recognized long ago that the old way of doing things — 20th century “workforce development” — simply wasn’t meeting the needs of 21st century employers. WIOA sends a tremendous signal that they may be starting to understand that in Washington, as well.

While we’ve got a long way to go, the fresh, streamlined, employer-focused approach is already paying incredible dividends here in Michigan.

From Detroit to Marquette, Grand Rapids to Alpena, and all points in between, Michigan employers literally have tens of thousands of job openings waiting to be filled.

So Michigan Works! began doing things differently. We’re focusing on the needs of employers first, helping them identify the best candidates for the positions they are offering, and providing job seekers and current employees with the training they need to get, keep, and improve at their jobs.

Here in Metro Detroit, for instance, Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, Inc. partnered with Detroit Manufacturing Systems to help the auto supplier fill over 700 high-skill production jobs.

Examples like these illustrate the real life benefit of a demand-driven employment strategy that’s willing to abandon old systems and old programs to bring people together — employers, educators, and workforce development teams — to meet new challenges and opportunities.

Luann Dunsford is CEO of Michigan Works! Association and Charlie Mahoney is chair of the Board of Directors of Michigan Works! Association.