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MAT2 prepares for next cohort of future highly-skilled employees in the advanced manufacturing field

Michigan's Talent Investment Agency (TIA), along with local Michigan Works! offices, community colleges, and area employers, are currently preparing for the next batch of MAT2 cohorts to start this fall.
MAT2 – the Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program (pronounced "mat squared") – is an innovative, industry-defined approach to education following the German model of taking students into the workforce and allowing employers to “grow their own” employees.
Manufacturing and technology companies are experiencing a shortage of employees with the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to operate and maintain new systems-based equipment and technologies. MAT2 is an educational model developed in conjunction with global industry leaders that combines theory, practice, and work to train a globally competitive workforce.
The program launched with its first cohort in 2013 and has had an excellent retention rate, continuing to produce positive results for employers in Michigan. Allowing companies to "grow their own" employees, the program develops and ensures a future pipeline of qualified talent with direct employer involvement in the development and execution of a hands-on, competency-based education and training program that develops highly-skilled, readily employable graduates. 
MAT2 was created specifically to address critical need in the technology and manufacturing industries to develop the pipeline to fill positions that are going to have vacancies as these industries continue to contend with a widening skills gap and aging workforce.
MAT2 initially focused on mechatronics – technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering – and has since expanded to also include CNC Operation. The TIA's focus is in recruiting both employers and participants for these two pathways for MAT2 programs throughout Southeast Michigan and in select cities (including Kalamazoo and Cadillac) throughout the rest of the state. In Oakland County, education partner Oakland Community College focuses on the mechatronics pathway.
Denise Van Hee, manager of Oakland County Michigan Works! Troy, says that MAT2 functions similar to an apprenticeship model. "It's a combination of in-class curriculum and on the job training," she explains. "There is a really big push right now in the state and across the nation to increase the number of apprenticeships, so this model really falls into that."
Employers absorb the cost of this hybrid education, but the State of Michigan has provided an employer training grant for MAT2 employers that offer United States Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeships in order to offset the employer's cost of paying for schooling, employment wages, and additional living stipends while participants are in school. Part of the benefit for employers, in addition to having direct involvement in curriculum development in order to ensure that any and all of their talent and skills needs are being met, is that this kind of program ultimately reduces the employers' recruitment, retention, and training costs when hiring people who are potentially unskilled, in need of significant training, or otherwise not a good fit.
The program runs for three years, alternating between in-class and on-the-job training for eight weeks at a time, but is actually a five-year commitment: after completion of the three years of education and job training, at the end of which the participant receives an accredited associates degree and other accreditations where applicable, the employer also agrees to employ that participant for the next two years.
This means that a 21-year-old finishing his or her third year of official training will immediately be placed in a full-time job making at least $55,000 a year starting, with a two-year degree (and possibly also a journeyman's card) and no college debt. This person can then buy a car, buy a house, continue with schooling, and otherwise start his or her "adult" life and be well-positioned in a highly-skilled, in-demand career path.
The next cohort begins September 1. More information on MAT2 can be found on their website
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