It was a long time coming, but manufacturing in Michigan is on the upswing, and there are good jobs available – for people with the right skills, that is.
And therein lies the rub. Michigan’s manufacturers are having a tough time finding the skilled talent they need. Engineers, skilled trades people, and even entry-level production workers are increasingly difficult to recruit. Terms like “talent war” and “talent crisis” are creeping in to everyday conversation in manufacturing HR departments.
With an unemployment rate of a little over eight percent, Michigan has no shortage of workers, just a shortage of workers with the right skills. Not enough young people are enrolling in engineering programs, and the number currently training in skilled trades is insufficient to meet industry demand. Registered apprenticeship training levels have been falling like a rock since 2005. Training programs for the skills needed by Michigan’s manufacturers is notably absent. The number of people receiving degrees in engineering is on the decline.
Michigan manufacturers are facing multiple challenges:
- An aging workforce nearing retirement.
- A virtually nonexistent pipeline of young workers to take their place.
- Insufficient training programs in skilled trades and related occupations to meet current demand.
- Worker recruitment methods that are little changed since the onset of the Great Recession.
This looming skills gap prompted The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan’s Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) to come together in an effort to find solutions. With that goal in mind, they are hosting a series of regional talent forums in communities around the state with the belief that talent development is best addressed by industry itself. Local manufacturers working together with their own manufacturing councils, Michigan Works! agencies, economic development organizations, community colleges and other stakeholders are best suited to find the right talent and training options to fit their specific circumstances.
Examples of successful industry-led efforts to solve the skills gap in Michigan abound. The Advanced Manufacturing Career Consortium in the Kalamazoo area, The Right Place, Inc. in the Grand Rapids area and the Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers Association have all made good progress in addressing the problem at the local level. These and other efforts can serve as models for more Michigan communities to solve their own workforce challenges.
If you’re a Michigan manufacturer struggling to find and retain talent, join us at a regional forum near you. We want to know what challenges you face and learn from your successes. For a complete list of dates and locations, click here.
Robert Sherer is the Manufacturing Talent Director for the state of Michigan’s Workforce Development Agency.