Michigan is begging for skilled workers

Jul 15, 2014

help wanted sign
Credit kandyjaxx/creative commons

If we don’t find new ways to teach the right skills and train more workers, Michigan is going to be badly hurt.

That’s what Bridge Magazine writer Ted Roelofs heard from top business owners as he explored the skilled labor shortage in Michigan.

His piece in Bridge is called “Help Wanted: Yes, there really are 70,000 good jobs open.”

“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to find employers that are frustrated in their ability to attract and keep the kind of workers with the skills they need to their businesses,” Roelofs said.

The skills and occupations he’s talking about include software engineers, production engineers, construction skills, truck drivers, people in advanced manufacturing, nurses and more.

Roelofs said he spoke with the President and CEO of Autocam in Kentwood, John Kennedy, who said he isn’t getting enough skilled manufacturing workers.

One reason Roelofs points to is schools pushing too many students into college and ignoring the ones who would excel at shop or drafting.

In response to this issue, Kennedy opened up a program in partnership with Grand Rapids Community College that will take qualified applicants into an apprentice program. They work at the plant while being paid to go to school for the skills they need. When they graduate from the program they could make up to $17.50 an hour or more.

Today, Autocam still has 20 open positions. However, in their operations in China, they don’t have any issues finding workers.

Roelofs said Kennedy believes that the issue lies within the schools. Students don’t realize the relevance of certain classes, like math, that could potentially lead to these jobs.

“Maybe part of that, too, is that kids at that age, today, maybe don’t aspire to that kind of work because they think that’s yesterday’s job,” Roelofs said.

This does not mean that students should not go to college. Roelofs said that anyone who gets a four year degree can get a well-paying job, it just has to be the right degree.

He added that high schools need to do a better job reaching out to students who have a potential in manufacturing and other related fields so they can see the relevance and come out of high school with the skills.

“If you don’t fill those slots you are missing out on economic growth,” Roelofs said. 

*Listen to full interview above.

-Bre’Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.