Detroit — Gov. Rick Snyder opened a two-day conference Monday on how Michigan should meet the current and future need for workers with the right training, education and skills for the state's employers.
The Governor's Economic Summit, which also runs today at Cobo Center, includes more than 700 business, education and local government leaders in discussions on how to fill the state's "skills gap." Even though unemployment in the state remains high, employers continually report that they cannot find enough workers with the proper training or skills to fill their vacancies.
"We want to hear from employers," Snyder told the opening session of the summit. "The reality is that there are employers in this room with open jobs."
Stressing a theme of collaboration, creation and connection, Snyder added that, "The greatest asset that we have in our state is our talent. The problem is that we don't do a good job of talent management."
Snyder then presented just a small portion of the state talent pool — 10 college seniors or recent grads, each from one region of the state, looking for a job. The young men and women had impressive backgrounds and well-rehearsed brief descriptions of themselves. One was John DeAngelis, an Aquinas College student from Iowa who wants to work building sustainable business, but wants to stay in Michigan for more than just career reasons."I just got engaged last week to a Grand Rapids girl," he told the crowd, "and we plan on setting down roots here in Michigan.
Snyder and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which is presenting the summit, are looking to emphasize making more connections between the private sector and the state's schools, community colleges and universities. The summit also has seeks to stress regional cooperation that would create different solutions in Metro Detroit than in Grand Rapids or the U.P.
One first step Snyder seeks is to develop a consistent definition of Michigan's various economic and geographic regions. The summit will feature breakout sessions among leaders in 10 different regions, seeking to identify opportunities and roadblocks for growth and matching worker training and skills to current and future jobs. On Monday, the summit focused on industry-specific and regional challenges. Today's sessions will discuss how the state can compete in the global tug-of-war in job creation, and share reports from the previous day's break-out sessions.
Despite the summit's feel-good topic of building jobs and business in Michigan, some municipal leaders complained Monday about a disconnect between Snyder's push for repopulating urban areas with young professionalsand his administration's dwindling amount of state revenue sharing and call for $1.2 billion in new tax revenue for roads and infrastructure. "We need to make sure we're investing money in places where people want to be," said Samantha Harkins, director of state affairs of the Michigan Municipal League.
In an interview with The Detroit News, Snyder said he hoped to take the findings from this summit and use them to better align schools and employers in an April education summit.
"It's a huge opportunity for us to be much more strategic and to have a strategic advantage compared to others in the country and the world," he said. "I don't think our country does very good job of matching up the supply and demand of talent."
Snyder said he has found good model programs abroad, and has imported a pilot program, the Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program, in January. That program features German employers who will offer apprenticeships to tech students. "They pay them, the students get an associates degree out of it, and they basically have a job when they come out," Snyder said.