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Facebook funds tech training for 3K in Michigan

Christine Ferretti

Detroit — Facebook has a new partnership with a Detroit-based information technology hub to provide free training in coding and digital marketing to 3,000 Michigan residents over the next two years.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday gathered with leaders from Facebook and Grand Circus, the IT training hub in the Broderick Tower, to stress the need for more Michigan workers to gain the skills for the tens of thousands of jobs open today in the state’s technology field.

Snyder said there’s a lack of people with information technology skills in Michigan and the demand is huge. The governor also teased a plan for “major investment” at the state-level for the tech field.

“This is a great way to get going and really show the value of what we are doing in IT,” Snyder said during a news conference inside the Grand Circus offices Woodward. “We have great programs, but we need to do more.”

The comment comes after state of Michigan made a $7.3 billion pitch this summer to Taiwanese electronic manufacturer Foxconn for a flat-screen panel factory in Marshall, a facility in Romulus and a possible research and development center in Detroit. While Wisconsin won the factory, developments experts have said Michigan has a good chance to land its own Foxconn facility.

The information technology training effort discussed Monday is fully funded by Facebook. But Snyder said a plan for talent at the state level is expected to be rolled out over the next few weeks.

The governor said he wants to finance it in the upcoming full-year budget or perhaps in a supplemental funding bill, citing the potential use of “one-time sources.” He declined to specify the amount, but said it would be “fairly significant.”

“We’re trying to develop a Marshall Plan for talent, particularly in the IT space, and that’s something we’ll be rolling out over the next few weeks through the budget cycle to talk about how to do this,” Snyder told reporters after the announcement, noting part of the catalyst was Detroit’s bid for the Amazon headquarters.

Snyder added Monday he believes Detroit is a “strong contender” for winning the Amazon bid. Parts of the talent plan were laid out in the Amazon proposal, he said.

“Everyone in the world is bidding for this headquarters, and the way I viewed it is it was a great rallying cry to identify the need for more IT people for existing companies,” he said. “I’m encouraging every company to look at Michigan. We’re seeing the pipeline be very full with opportunities for good companies all around.”

Snyder said there also will be discussion about changing the state’s merit curriculum to make computer science a foreign language credit.

Reggie McKnight, who is head of U.S. infrastructure public policy for Facebook, noted the program was first announced in June and is running with two components. The first is a 10-week boot camp, which started last month, that provides students with full scholarships and job assistance. A digital marketing training program will kick off in November.

Damien Rocchi, Grand Circus’ co-founder and CEO, said the program is open to all Michigan residents and is being facilitated at the company’s Detroit and Grand Rapids hubs.

Grand Circus, McKnight noted, launched in 2013 to help bridge the technical gap in the state.

“Our partnership is particularly timely. Today, there are over 500,000 open computing jobs in the United States. By 2024, that number will rise to more than 1 million open computing jobs in the country,” McKnight said. “And nearly seven in 10 small and medium-sized businesses consider digital marketing skills important when hiring employees.”

“Filing these jobs is critical for our economy, our families and for our communities. The need is clear and the opportunity is now.”