Gov. Rick Snyder wrapped up his two-day Governor's Economic Summit Tuesday with a call to business and community leaders to work with educators to make Michigan a place that develops and attracts the kinds of talented workers that will lure businesses and jobs.
"The largest single opportunity we have is talent," Snyder told a crowd of 700 invited business owners, workforce development administrators, educators and economic development officials.
The invitation-only event explored the gap between the jobs employers say they need filled today and in the future, and the skills, capabilities and training of Michigan workers. 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.
During Monday's session, several breakout groups looked at the needs of industries and regions in the state, and the challenges to training, attracting and retaining workers with the right skills. The findings for the top talent needs across multiple industries included information technology specialists, engineers of all specialties, skilled trades workers and more.
The same groups, when asked to describe the top challenges, focused on the perception of the state, retaining workers and graduates in Michigan, an aging workforce and a poor image for the state's many manufacturing industries. To address the challenges, participants recommended that businesses work directly with universities, college and community colleges, and work to create awareness of possible careers in middle schools and high schools, as well as establishing internships, co-op work and education programs, and apprenticeship programs.
If those on hand needed any motivation, they heard it from Jim Clifton, the CEO of the Gallup polling organization and author of "The Coming Jobs War." Clifton posits that after a surge of wealth-creation, the United States is poised to slip behind China and other emerging economies in the future, fundamentally changing this country's relationship with the rest of the world.
While the post-industrial mantra for growth in the U.S. is often innovation, Clifton said there is a significant gap between creating innovations and finding ways to use that innovation to produce new jobs, industries and profits.
"We haven't learned that innovation has no value whatsoever until a customer stands next to it," he said.
A report on the summit's findings will be produced in the next few weeks, for use at Snyder's education summit in April. The governor encouraged those at the economic summit to participate.
Finding effective ways to coordinate business needs and educational systems to produce workers to meet those needs "is a fundamental strategic advantage that will then become the role more for the rest of the country and the world," Snyder said.