Oceana Employer Resource Network

Created in 2016, the Oceana Employer Resource Network (ERN) is a network of local employers who come together to grapple with issues like turnover, productivity, training and employee retention. Network members include:  Arbre Farms, Country Dairy, GHSP, Oceana Foods, Oceana County Medical Care, Peterson Farms, Shelby State Bank and Valley City Metal Products. Stategic partners include Great Lakes Energy, ERN-Michigan, Community Foundation for Oceana County, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services and Pennies from Heaven Foundation.

The Foundation provided leadership in convening partners to form the ERN, assisted with developing a 2-year co-funding strategy to support initial member costs and provided seed grant funding. ERNs improve communities in a variety of ways:

  • employers retain an engaged and skilled workforce
  • nonprofits get better outcomes from programs that advance economic independence
  • employers work collectively on common issues and participate in county-wide solutions

The core of the ERN model is onsite, confidential Success Coaching that employees can access on a predictable, ongoing basis. No more wasted hours in social services offices; Success Coaches offer direct connection and access to community resources. Employees who face a crisis from lack of resources can get immediate, personal relief, onsite. Services are available to all employees in the member companies. Success Coaches accommodate all shifts with off-site locations and alternate meeting times available upon request. Oceana’s success coach is bilingual and is contracted via the Oceana Hispanic Center.

Another successful component of the ERN is the Bridge Loan program, providing a financial resource for the Success Coach and clients, allowing the coach to connect clients to fair and reputable lending. These loans help clients overcome financial burdens that may be negatively impacting their life including auto repairs, credit repair, payday lending traps, appliance purchases, debt, and family emergencies. The loan program also includes a savings component of $10 per week into a savings account, not accessible until the loan is paid in full. Upon pay-off, the client is encouraged to continue the habit of savings. Shelby State Bank services the Bridge Loan program at a supportive low interest rate.

Oceana’s ERN successfully initiated a pilot manufacturing training program in 2016, in collaboration with Michigan Career & Technical Institute (MCTI). This program helped to fill the skill gaps of several job-seekers to achieve full-time competitive employment in the food processing sector. Based on that success, the Foundation assisted MCTI in forming a task force of food processing manufacturers to apply for a 2018 Value-Added Grant via the MI Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. The task force identified relevant training programs, including curriculum offered by the Canadian Food Processors Institute, to be used in the proposed Registered Apprenticeship Program and a School-to-Registered Apprenticeship. If funded, these programs will help to fill the skilled labor need in Oceana County and provide career-laddering opportunities for students and current workers. These programs will also create a first ever food processing registered apprenticeship program with the Department of Labor.

You can help the Foundation lead initiatives like the ERN by supporting our Administrative Fund here.

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