LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity announced Wednesday it is awarding more than $628,000 to 25 local employers to help fund training opportunities for nearly 560 workers.

Funds are being awarded through the Going PRO Talent Fund, which is a competitive funding program that can help employers to train, develop and retrain current and new employees. Training plans approved by the state must be short-term and fill a demonstrated talent need experienced by the employer. Training must also lead to a credential for a skill that is transferable and industry-recognized.

Locally, companies applied for funding in November with the help of Michigan Works! West Central's Business Services team. Training is expected to start as early as Feb. 1. Statewide, more than 1,030 applications were submitted.

"The Going PRO Talent Fund has been an invaluable funding source for Michigan businesses looking to upskill their workforce and train new hires," said Shelly Keene, executive director of Michigan Works! West Central. "This program is an investment in Michigan's workforce that will help provide the critical skills necessary for a wide variety of in-demand jobs across our region. We are very pleased with this year's awards announcement - all but one of the applications we helped employers submit was approved. I applaud our Business Services team for all of their hard work during the application period."

In Michigan Works! West Central's six-county coverage area - Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Newaygo, Oceana and Osceola counties - 26 applications were submitted in November, totaling $700,427 in training funding requests. Of the 558 local employees who will undergo training through these awards, 19 are new U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) registered apprenticeships.

The following companies are being awarded funds to train their respective workforces:

Osceola County

• LeRoy Tool & Die

• Reed City Group

• Yoplait/General Mills

Lake County

• Cold River Heating & Cooling

Mason County

• Change Parts

• Cottage Works

• Fab-Lite (Metalworks)

• Great Lakes Castings

• Hardman Construction

• House of Flavors

• Lake FX Media

• Medilodge

• Metalworks

• Safety Decals

• UACJ Whitehall Industries

Newaygo County

• Fremont Lanes

• GM Wood Products

• Harbison Walker International

• Magna Mirrors

• Nestle-Gerber Products

Oceana County

• Arbre Farms

• GHSP

• Michigan Freeze Pack

• Peterson Farms

• The Chassis Shop

The Going PRO Talent Fund (formerly the Skilled Trades Training Fund) began in 2014. In the first six years of the program, Michigan Works! West Central helped secure more than $2 million to train more than 2,000 workers at 50 different companies in its service area. Of those 2,000-plus workers, 57 were new USDOL registered apprentices.

Nearly $29 million was earmarked for the talent fund in the state budget that was approved last fall. No funding had been allocated for the program in the previous year's budget.

Michigan Works! West Central's Business Services team will continue to work with this year's awardees to make sure they are able to maximize their funding and to file all necessary paperwork.

"The Going PRO Talent Fund is one of the many tools Michigan Works! West Central has available to offer to businesses looking to train their employees. The success of the program helps to ensure Michigan employers have the talent they need to compete and grow in the global economy," said Merri Bennett, Michigan Works! West Central Business Services director. "I'm very proud of my team for working with area employers to submit so many comprehensive and successful applications."