Unlocking Potential


At Southwest Michigan First, we understand that access to a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline is a key ingredient to growing our economy.  When employers embrace different backgrounds and perspectives in the workplace, their ability to drive market growth and be competitive skyrockets. Beyond increased morale and innovation, companies who pursue a diverse and inclusive workforce realize that their access to a larger talent pool increases, customer base grows and strategic plan gets more creative.

Southwest Michigan First’s relationships can help get you access to education systems and service providers that span:

  • K-12 Programming, Including Career and Technical Education: Regional programming meets business needs through strong partnerships to deliver a curriculum that reflects “real world” applications while meeting the rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum as well as state, national and industry technical standards and requirements.
  • Higher Education Institutions: Our region is home to nationally-ranked Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College, as well as other excellent higher education systems. Our resources can help you establish internship and apprenticeship programs, get your company noticed at job fairs, take advantage of career academies and certificate programs and gain access to specialized training and programs.
  • Workforce Development Agencies: Michigan Works! connects people who need jobs with companies who need to fill jobs throughout the state. Funded by state and federal governments through the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), Michigan Works! is a free service to both employers and job seekers. Services include screening and hiring services, on-the-job training funds, Worker Opportunity Tax Credits and ongoing training strategies. Michigan Works! Southwest services Branch, Calhoun, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties, with the remaining regional counties served by the team at Michigan Works! Berrien, Cass, Van Buren.
  • Staffing Agencies: Let us connect you directly with the region’s top employment agencies.
  • Supported Employment: Our team’s relationships can open up diverse recruiting resources and talent pools to your company.
  • Continuous User Improvement Group: This collaboration of Southwest Michigan companies is dedicated to sharing best practices and seeking ideas to improve efficiency and productivity.  Continuous Improvement, Total Production Management, Six Sigma and other lean practitioners network regularly either through tours of best practice or topical discussions.
  • Advanced Manufacturing Career Consortium: Launched in 2011 as a collaboration between Southwest Michigan First, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Glen Oaks Community College, Michigan Works!, the Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency and area manufacturers, the consortium’s purpose is to address the challenges companies have in finding qualified candidates to fill existing job openings and to develop a long-term strategy to address future needs.
  • MIX Southwest Michigan: Our MIX creative community regularly brings together individuals across all creative disciplines to learn from great content, inspiration and interaction with local and national designers. 

Ready to get connected to new sources of talent? Contact Petey Stephanak at 269.553.9588 to get started.