WIRED aims to make West Michigan a global force in knowledge economy

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

With Phase 1 complete, a series of workgroups developing ways to strengthen West Michigan's economy for the 21st century are moving forward to Phase 2 under the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative.

WIRED West Michigan, funded by a $15 million federal grant, launched the 12 workgroups, or 'innovations,' to spur the transformation of the regional economy from one based on manufacturing to one rooted more deeply in knowledge, technology, and highly advanced skills sets.

That means re-training the existing workforce to use computers and technology and to innovate new ways to work smarter. It means educating young people in a way that properly prepares them to enter the workforce with the skills the employers of the future actually need, rather than with skills that no longer apply.

"The National Career Readiness Certificate is about basic educational needs," says Phil Rios, project manager. "It's never been driven from the employer's perspective, and we're doing that now."

A second goal of WIRED West Michigan, added by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, the group overseeing the initiative, is to prove or disprove that innovation can be nurtured, managed, developed, and launched using a systematic process.

"The question is," Rios says, "can we transform the region into a recognized place to come to do innovative work?"

WIRED is managing 12 'innovations' in total. But eight are now moving to Phase 2. They are:

  • West Michigan TEAM Innovation
  • National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC)/WorkKeys Innovation
  • InnovationWORKS Design Council
  • Innovation Curriculum
  • Knowledge Workers & Economic Development
  • Regional Skills Development Co-op
  • Healthcare Regional Skills Alliance
  • Global School Model

Persons interested in learning more about WIRED's innovations, progress, and goals may attend the 2007 WIRED Innovation Conference in Grand Rapids. Governor Jennifer Granholm and Emily DeRocco from the US Department of Labor have been invited to speak.

Source: Phil Rios, WIRED West Michigan

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected].