The Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA) is addressing the gap between workers with the right skills and Michigan companies in need of employees for both today and tomorrow.
TIA joins the efforts of the Workforce Development Agency and the Unemployment Insurance Agency to integrate new workers into the economy and help those workers that have been in or out of the workforce transition into new jobs. TIA coordinates programs related to job preparedness, career-based education, worker training, employment assistance and unemployment insurance.
Read below to learn more about the TIA, as shared by the agency’s Director, Stephanie Comai.
Q: What is the Talent Investment Agency and why was it created?
SC: Our agency is one of three within the new Department of Talent and Economic Development, with the other two being Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The Talent Investment Agency, or TIA, will spearhead Gov. Rick Snyder’s talent enhancement initiative, which is critical to Michigan’s economic prosperity. We will be the state’s leader in evaluating and implementing services and programs related to talent, such as job preparedness, career-based education, skilled trades training, incumbent worker training, employment assistance, STEM training programs and programs designed to help the unemployed.
Q: What will be your priorities in your role at the Talent Investment Agency? Can you give us any initiatives or ideas on programs or initiatives that will help achieve these priorities? What will be the benefits of this agency for job seekers and employers?
SC: I want us to be a dynamic, collaborative, nimble and innovative agency that’s always finding better ways to serve our customers in every corner of the state. We’ll do that by listening to stakeholders across Michigan. Collaboration is key. Many of the best ideas come from the local level and we need to hear what’s being said at the community and regional levels.
In terms of specific programs or initiatives, we’ll be spending a lot of time in the next few months bringing stakeholders together to address common challenges and hear their best practices.
We want to know what’s working and what’s not, and if something’s not working, then find the best way to fix it. This may be in the form of “listening tours” or something to that effect, though we haven’t decided on an exact format yet. We’ll also concentrate on creating greater awareness of career and technical education. For example, we’re working with our MEDC partners on some great videos that will help spark an interest in the skilled trades among students, including grade-schoolers. Enhancing STEM education is another priority, because it provides the necessary foundation for success in the skilled and technical trades.
As for job seekers and employers, TIA will benefit them in two primary ways. First, as part of the Department of Talent and Economic Development, we can help simply by providing talent-related services under one roof, giving all customers a single doorway to state government. Equally important is that we’ll help to build a bridge that brings the job seekers and job providers together. We’ll help new members of our workforce, as well as established members, gain the critical skills to take advantage of the many opportunities that await them. The flip side of that is helping Michigan to grow by allowing job providers to have greater access to well trained and highly qualified talent, which is the lifeblood of any business.
Q: What issues or challenges do you think all states face when it comes to talent? How is Michigan currently addressing it, or how do you think they can address it?
SC: Some of the biggest challenges are training and retention. We need to make sure that we’re producing talent that has the skills needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Then, of course, we want to retain this talent in Michigan rather than seeing our workers go to other states. Thanks to the governor’s emphasis on the talent issue, we’re making strides in both areas. The awareness he is creating, particularly through the creation of our agency, is generating an important dialogue that is getting Michigan to more sharply focus on these goals. So when you look at what’s going on across the state – things like greater regional collaboration – that will help everything from talent development to placemaking. It’s important that everyone be at the table, from educators, job providers, nonprofits and economic development specialists. The end result is a state and regions with a high quality of life and great job opportunities.
Q: A major discussion in Michigan right now is around the skilled trades – what opportunities are there for students or job seekers in this industry?
SC: Our MiTalent.org website has well over 80,000 unfilled jobs, many of which are for skilled trades positions. The opportunities are out there. It’s really a matter of getting people with the training to fill them. A few of the governor’s initiatives that we’re proud to implement include the Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program, which helps community colleges get the up-to-date equipment they need to better train students for skilled trades careers; and the Skilled Trades Training Fund, which already has helped more than 10,000 people get trained or retrained as of December 2014. One of the exciting things about the skilled trades is the variety of fields that are available. From industrial engineering and software design to medical technicians and heating & refrigeration mechanics, the sky is the limit.
Q: What perception do you think Michigan faces in terms of job opportunities and what do you want people to know about job opportunities in Michigan?
SC: We probably are still battling the old stereotype that Michigan is part of the “Rustbelt” and that we’re not as vibrant as other places across the country. That’s totally unfounded, of course. Take Detroit, for example. Not everyone realizes that Michigan is a leader in things like automotive research and development. We’re an innovation hub in so many ways. But both in terms of job providers and prospective talent, Michigan probably still has some work to do in terms of overcoming that negative stereotype. TIA will work with all of its partners to not only prepare Michiganders for exciting, highly skilled jobs but also to let everyone know that Michigan really is a state of opportunity. Stay in Michigan and you can have a great career and a great quality of life. You can’t beat that.
Q: Where can people go to learn more?
SC: I hope everyone visits our agency website at www.michigan.gov/tia, as well as department’s website at www.michigan.gov/ted. They’re both in the early stages right now; we’ll continue to add content as time goes on. As always, we welcome any comments from our partners as to how we can make them even better.
Stephanie Comai is the Director of the Talent Investment Agency where she directs the initiatives of the state’s workforce development programs and the Unemployment Insurance Agency and serves as a top advisor to the Governor on talent and workforce issues. Prior to her role at the Talent Investment Agency, Comai was a Deputy Director at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs with oversight of Employment, Security and Workplace Safety.
For additional information on the TIA and other programs in Michigan, visit MichiganBusiness.org.