The Michigan Workforce Development Agency (WDA) has developed a program to address employment needs that is drawing attention from the Singapore business community. The WDA recently hosted the Singapore Workforce Development Agency to share best practices and its unique Michigan Industry Cluster Approach.

MICA creates a framework in which many employers within a single industry engage with the WDA to identify a demand for talent.

In this approach, talent issues may be handled more efficiently through multi-company, industry-focused training programs. Regionally, Michigan Works! Agencies bring together employers, education providers, economic development organizations, and other groups associated with workforce development to solve talent challenges. Local industry clusters are formed based on local needs and are led by employers.

“When we came across the Michigan Industry Cluster Approach, we felt that Michigan’s experience in integrating the cluster approach throughout its entire workforce system held useful insights for our own efforts to strengthen the link between skills supply and how the skills acquired are utilized in the workplace,” said Ng Cher Pong, chief executive of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

“I was surprised on how similar our issues, concerns and opportunities were between our two agencies,” said Christine Quinn,” director of the WDA.

For example, the need to build the pipeline into skilled jobs that don’t necessitate four or more years of college but to include apprenticeship or other training and credentialing as well as educating parents, teachers and youth about the multiple alternative paths to a great career.

In Michigan, the WDA has initially identified five state priority industry clusters: Agriculture, Energy, Health Care, Information Technology & Media, and Manufacturing. A team of specialists within these five clusters are responsible for driving workforce development efforts toward meeting the skill needs within these clusters.

There is growing evidence that industry clusters are an effective organizing framework for positively impacting economic and workforce development activities. More than 25 states have adopted cluster strategies as the way to do business. Michigan, however, is taking this strategy to the next level by implementing the Michigan Industry Cluster Approach throughout the workforce system making the state a model for workforce development agencies around the world.

To learn more about the Michigan Industry Cluster Approach or to see how your company can get involved, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Kelly Illikainen

Surrounded by 9,679 miles of freshwater coastline, water is central to our way of life. Fishing, boating, swimming, and surfing are just a few of the many recreational activities that draw people to our lakes, making water a key economic driver for Michigan.

Here’s a look at Michigan’s coastal tourism industry – and the numbers don’t lie.

  • 11,000: The number of inland lakes in Michigan
  • 36,000:  The miles of streams in Michigan
  • $3.9 billion: The dollar amount boaters spend in Michigan each year
  • 50,000: The number of jobs to which the boating industry contributes
  • $2 billion: The dollar amount fishermen contribute to the Michigan economy each year
  • 57,000: The number of jobs for which coastal tourism is responsible
  • $955 million: The dollar amount coastal tourism brings in each year
  • $140 million: The dollar amount the canoe and kayaking industry alone brings in each year

Michigan companies and communities realize the impact the waterways have on the economy and are taking steps to promote its key assets.

Take the Grand Haven Salmon Festival, for instance. Each year, Grand Haven celebrates the fall salmon migration and educates attendees on proper water quality and the importance of a healthy natural environment.  These elements are critical in maintaining a strong salmon population, among many other native fish and wildlife species.

The Grand Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that nearly 10,000 visitors find their way to the Grand Haven area during the Salmon Festival each year, coming from as far as Alaska.

“It’s not easy reeling in a 20lb King Salmon, but if I can do it – you can do it,” says Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Salmon Festival and Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.  “There are over 30 different licensed charter boats in the Grand Haven area. Pair that with a plethora of knowledgeable captains and you are sure to secure a few good fishing stories.”

To support a healthy coast, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates there are more than 350 emerging water-technology based firms in Michigan.

The nearly $1 trillion dollar industry is a growing global market for water cleaning, conservation, restoration, monitoring, infrastructure-building, and engineering work. These range from big manufacturing firms like Dow Chemical (water filtering), Cascade Engineering (water cleaning), to growing service firms like Limnotech (ecosystem engineering)—all working on a global basis.

Learn more about Michigan’s water technology industry at

The Grand Haven Salmon Festival is taking place from Sept. 12 – 14. Click here for more details.

Photo Credit: Brian Fett

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Michigan is surrounded by 9,679 miles of freshwater coastline and has 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of streams. Because water plays such an important role in the state’s commerce, Michigan is a leader in protecting this resource with effective regulations and promoting water technologies.  

Michigan is becoming a leader in the water technology industry with more than 450 water-related technology and service companies and world-class institutions in the state. They provide expertise, investment and a workforce for the advancement of solutions in water, wastewater, storm water treatment, conservation and restoration. 

Here are just a few of the companies doing innovative things that Michigan companies are doing, and why they chose the state.


Since 2004, Parjana Inc. has been a proud Michigan-based company striving to improve the quality of water and develop new water technologies.  The organization holds the patent for the EGRP(Energy-Passive Groundwater Recharge Product), a water technology capable of being manufactured as a distributable product. Parjana Distribution holds the license for worldwide distribution rights to the EGRP product.

CEO Greg McPartlin believes that Parjana thrives in Michigan based on the past economic success that the area has had with an abundance of freshwater as a resource.

“The world’s economy has been defined by Detroit in the past, and Parjana sees an ideal opportunity to be a part of its reinvention in the future,” said McPartlin.

Plymouth Technologies

Plymouth Technologies is a metro-Detroit based company focused on delivering cost-effective solutions for wastewater, water treatment, oilfield and industrial processes. The organization holds expertise in water treatment technology, including: oil & gas, aerospace, automotive, chemical, food processing, major appliance manufacturing, metal finishing, packaging and plastics.

Plymouth Technologies has taken advantage of a training program offered by the State of Michigan, receiving a $75,000 grant through the Michigan New Job Training Program that was delivered through Oakland Community College’s Economic and Workforce Development team.

The state-sponsored program provides qualified businesses with workers trained in the skills needed by growing, technology-oriented companies like Plymouth Technology.

“It is a tremendous benefit to companies like ours seeking qualified, motivated workers that are looking to secure well-paying technology jobs in the new economy,” said Amanda Christides, president of Plymouth Technology. “The Michigan New Job Training Program provides a great example of how our state government and local educational institutions can partner to create a powerful and positive framework for Michigan companies, employees and the communities in which we live and work.”

Through the extensive intern program, junior and senior levels students from Michigan’s exceptional higher education institutions gain valuable work experience.  Plymouth Technology averages more than 15 students every year working in chemical research, sales and human resources.  Since 2006, they have trained more than 120 students including several who have joined us as full-time employees.

“As a Michigan native and someone proud of our state’s industrial heritage, I’m excited by the tools available to businesses seeking to create and grow their enterprise here,” said Christides.

Algal Scientific

Algal Scientific Technologies are the people behind cutting edge water technologies to better serve wastewaters.  Their processes rely on nature through the use of unique biology of microalgae to remove water contaminants such as BOD/COD, nitrogen and phosphorus. Simply put, rather than allowing an algal bloom to occur in nature, where it causes significant environmental and economic damage, Algal creates a controlled algal bloom in compact growth troughs.

”Being based in the Detroit area allows the company to access the rich talent pool Michigan offers,” said Geoff Horst, CEO of Algal. He noted the industrial and manufacturing industry is well established in southeastern Michigan, which allows the company to order parts locally and pick them up in the same day.   “Helping the local economy is something all state-wide companies should strive to be a part of,” said Horst.

In a state that is surrounded the majority of the nation’s freshwater, water preservation and treatment remains an imperative industry.  Through their practices, these companies and may others create economic diversity in the mitten state.


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Navy Veteran Jerrad Carlisle was hired by CNSI in July.  According to Sharif Hussein, Midwest Region SVP, Jerrad’s military training brought a much-needed skillset to his team.

When transitioning from the military to civilian workforce, veterans have sought after skills and qualifications, but in a recent article on, expert resume writer, Robert Dagnall, says they are having a hard time translating their military experience into terms employers recognize and value

In Michigan, veterans have access to several programs and resources that help them re-enter the workforce from Shifting Heroes to Hiring Our Heroes job fairs, and many Michigan companies have taken pride in hiring our veterans.

One such story is that of Jerrad Carlisle, a Navy veteran, who was hired by Sharif Hussein, senior vice president of CNSI, to fill a key role at the company, which delivers information technology and business process outsourcing solutions to federal, state and local government agencies, as well as commercial enterprises. Jerrad was one of six veterans featured in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Veteran Talent Showcase at the Mackinac Policy Conference. 

Jerrad is now a Business Analyst at the company’s Lansing officer where he supports a critical project enrolling home help providers through the Community Health Automated Medicaid Processing System (CHAMPS).

During his time in the United States Navy and onboard the USS Mount Whitney, in Gaeta, Italy, Carlisle worked with NATO on diplomatic missions. His experiences included desktop, network and telecommunications support for a number of high-profile events, including the inauguration of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Below, Sharif Hussein tells us more about the importance of hiring veterans and the unique skills they bring home.

The importance of hiring veterans has been a strong focus for Gov. Rick Snyder, who created the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. What prompted you to seek out military veterans as potential employees at CNSI?

CNSI is an organization that believes in giving back and contributing to the communities in which it engages. Plus, I am a strong proponent of giving opportunities to our veterans to continue their valuable contribution to our society. CNSI has a strong and proven track record partnering with the state of Michigan to offer innovative solutions to the state’s healthcare recipients by ensuring alignment with the Governor’s vision of better health and better care at a lower cost. Jerrad’s military background prepared him for the tasks, which require careful attention to details.

We value the level of wide-ranging expertise that veterans have to offer and with Jerrad, we have already seen first-hand how his hard work and knowledge enhance the work that we do.

What skills do you think Jerrad brings that differentiates him from other potential job candidates?

Having served in the Unites States Navy and worked closely with NATO, Jerrad brings a strong sense of urgency and attention to detail that is required of every CNSI team member.  It mimics the CNSI work culture, which is rooted in getting a job done with precision and pride.

His military service has given Jerrad the ability to anticipate problems and conceive proactive solutions for the tasks at hand.

How has Jerrad’s military training contributed to his success at CNSI? What qualities and skills do military veterans, in general bring to companies?

Military training provides a heightened sense of discipline that is hard to come by otherwise.

These individuals have proven that they are adaptive and can work in diverse and unpredictable environments, enabling them to shift and move from project to project. In our rapidly changing health care landscape, the ability to predict and react to these new requirements is highly critical.

Sharif was also a long-time resident of Washington D.C., but saw the opportunities in Michigan and recently relocated.

What is your role at CNSI?

I serve as the Midwest Region Senior Vice President at CNSI leading a group of highly talented professionals to deliver innovation and state-of-the-art solutions to our customer base and the citizens. This includes overseeing the continued transformation of our MMIS solution (CHAMPS). I ensure that CHAMPS continues to meet every published federal regulation to provide the necessary health care services to citizens of Michigan.

My role includes ensuring that CHAMPS is operating at optimal efficiency to meet the ever growing Medicaid population and requisite business operation objectives.

As a resident of Washington D.C. for most of your life, what brought you back to Michigan?

I had the pleasure of coming to Michigan while it was rebuilding and reinventing itself. As a Michigander, I wanted to play a role in the state’s transformation while leveraging my health care experience.

Really, I saw in Michigan a tremendous pool of talented and motivated individuals within CNSI. It was a tremendous opportunity to forge strong relationships with the renowned educational institutions in the State of Michigan. I wanted to capitalize on the wealth of these young and talented individuals, as well as leverage on the pool of experienced resources available in the market place.

It’s opportunities like this and the success of our hired veterans that really excites me and challenges me to further raise the bar in delivering innovations and contributing to the growth of the state. I am glad to have the opportunity to continue serving the state.

Watch Jerrad’s presentation at the Mackinac Policy Conference, where he shared how qualifications and skills earned while serving in the military make veterans the perfect candidates to fill critical positions today:

Employers interested in seeking out the unique skills of military veterans or military veterans seeking jobs can visit for more information.

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Community Ventures Brings Together Employers and Unemployed Job Seekers

August 19, 2014 Community Development

The Community Ventures (CV) team within Talent Enhancement at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in collaboration with Wayne State University and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses held a business outreach event in hopes of educating and attracting employers to the program, along with encouraging networking among businesses. Alana Assenmacher from the Community Ventures team tells us [...]

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Michigan Universities Work Together to Innovate for the “Blue Economy”

August 14, 2014 Community Development

Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC) – an alliance between Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University to transform, strengthen and diversify the state’s economy – plays a major role in protecting and preserving the water resources of Michigan and the Great Lakes region through major research projects and by producing graduates [...]

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Why I stayed in Michigan to start my career: One student’s story about living and working in the Mitten

August 12, 2014 Economic Development

Having a skilled and well-educated workforce has been shown to be the single most important growth factor in determining a metropolitan area’s output, income and productivity growth, which is why retaining current college-educated residents and attracting out-of-state talent with college degrees is crucial for Michigan’s continued economic comeback. College students’ decisions are heavily influenced by [...]

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Pure Michigan Talent Connect: Hot Jobs in Water Technology

August 8, 2014 Talent Enhancement

Michigan is the only state to have launched an economic initiative built around water technologies. The state is front and center for the water technology sector by providing expertise in connecting businesses with opportunities. Below is a roundup of just some of the hot jobs listed in the water technology industry. To apply or search [...]

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Pure Michigan Talent Connect: Hot Jobs in Michigan

August 1, 2014 Great Companies

Last week, listed the best jobs in Michigan for 2014 based on criteria from the Jobs Rated report. Financial manager, industrial designer, physical therapist, and computer systems analyst were among the jobs listed, and you can find many of them on, which has more than 77,000 jobs available. Below is a roundup of [...]

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A Match Made in Detroit

July 24, 2014 Great Companies

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is becoming known for matchmaking – and we mean business. On Tuesday, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Detroit Regional Chamber brought together the Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors to host the Detroit Three Matchmaking Summit, a Pure Michigan Business Connect supplier summit at Cobo Center in Detroit. [...]

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