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Area Chambers, Berrien RESA, Lake Michigan College unveil new partnership to build regional workforce

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Area Chambers, Berrien RESA, Lake Michigan College unveil new partnership to build regional workforce

Cultivating and retaining workforce talent is an enormous issue facing Southwest Michigan, the State of Michigan, and the country in general. A
new, innovative partnership, the Berrien Talent Collaborative, unveiled today at the Annual Meeting and Business Recognition Awards of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce, aims to solve this growing issue.

The Berrien Talent Collaborative is a partnership between Berrien RESA, Lake Michigan College, the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce. The group represents an employer-led initiative for high school students that merges the area’s education and job development resources to create a sustained pool of skilled workers through a registered apprenticeship program. It’s the first county-wide effort on apprenticeships in Michigan.

Labor shortage concerns resonate with Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber CEO and President Arthur Havlicek, who highlighted the impact on member businesses at his annual meeting. In his remarks, Havlicek emphasized the need for students to recognize high-paying job opportunities exist in our community and comprehensive training is available locally.

“The number one thing we hear from members is they cannot find the skilled labor they need to operate, much less grow,” said Havlicek. “Our counter is to create a county- wide talent supply chain that aligns education with business, up-skills available talent, and then connects that talent to meaningful, high-wage careers right here in Southwest Michigan.”

“The Berrien Talent Collaborative will work to reduce vacancies in the local workforce by providing sustainable talent, which will help our communities grow and flourish,” Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ryan Boeskool added. According to the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, the labor force in Berrien County remains more than 2,600 workers short of pre-pandemic levels.

In 2023, education, business, and chamber leaders met to discuss the Berrien County talent shortage. Data revealed that just 40 percent of the 2022 high school graduating class in Berrien County went on to college or a trade school. It’s estimated that only 30 percent of those students will complete two or more years in their chosen program, leaving a massive gap of untapped talent.

“It’s about creating a pathway to opportunity, matching employers and students, and building out a system leading to highly skilled talent,” Berrien RESA Superintendent Dr. Eric Hoppstock said. “The Berrien Talent Collaborative will work directly with employers to help them navigate the paperwork and standards of having a registered apprentice. We have had several productive meetings with state officials about eliminating red tape
and making it easier for employers and community groups.”

One of the first moves of the partnership was the donation by Lake Michigan College of its’ Niles Campus to the Berrien RESA. That building, now named the Berrien Innovation Center, houses Career & Technical Education courses and select college courses. Lake Michigan College’s Main Campus in Benton Harbor and the Hanson Technology Center are also available to K-12 districts.

“This is about aligning resources in our community to help our communities and businesses thrive and grow,” Lake Michigan College President Dr. Trevor Kubatzke said. “Students and parents are concerned about debt and finding the right opportunity. It’s why Lake Michigan College is offering free tuition to our graduating classes, and we realize it’s not just about college degrees, but about short-term certificates, specialized training, and getting business and education working together and talking the same language.”

The announcement took place at LMC’s Grand Upton Hall during the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting with over 600 employers and community leaders in attendance. Additional meetings are being planned for all parts of Berrien County.

The Berrien Talent Collaborative will also work with other community groups, workforce developers like Kinexus Group, non-profits, trade associations, and unions to ensure all employment sectors have access to the model.

For more information on the Berrien Talent Collaborative, visit

About Berrien RESA:
Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) sometimes called Intermediate School Districts (ISDs), exist to serve the common needs of their constituent local school districts. There are 56 such organizations in Michigan, and every school district is part of one. Their primary mission is to foster efficiency and innovation while optimizing the use of public funds. Berrien RESA proudly offers educational services to Berrien County’s school districts with a focus on optimizing student outcomes through collaboration and transformation.

About Lake Michigan College:
Lake Michigan College is a two-year, accredited, nonprofit community college with a main campus in Benton Harbor. Established in 1946 as Benton Harbor Junior College, LMC is the region’s leader in higher education, offering associate degrees, certificates, and transfer programs in more than 75 fields of study, including business, health sciences, manufacturing, wine and viticulture, culinary, and more. LMC serves as a cultural center, a regional economic partner, and a leader in diversity and innovation. It features the largest performing arts center in the region, intercollegiate athletics,
on-campus housing, and a wealth of extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations to create an authentic college experience close to home. For more information, visit

About the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber:
The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce is a 501c6, member-driven organization working to achieve economic prosperity throughout the region. Its mission is to leverage every available resource with its network for the advancement of its members and the betterment of all who live and work in our community.

About the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce:
The Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce works to foster a diverse and thriving business community through business education, business advocacy, economic development, and through a general focus on the success and growth of industry, trade, civic activities, publicity, and public relations for the greater Niles area.

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