You’ve probably heard the story by now. Thousands of jobs exist in Michigan, but employers are having a difficult time finding employees with the right skills. In a state that’s struggled with high unemployment for years, it’s good news these jobs are out there.
Now it’s a matter of getting people trained for these jobs. And those career paths are best embarked on early. The assembly line jobs that were the bread and butter for many Michiganians for so long are ceasing to exist and are getting replaced by manufacturing positions that require much more training and education.
A high school education just won’t cut it anymore for the most in-demand manufacturing jobs in the state.
At least 60,000 jobs are unfilled right now in Michigan, even as the unemployment rate remains at 9 percent — meaning around 400,000 people are looking for work.
Oakland County recently came out with a survey of manufacturers in Southeast Michigan and found a skills gap that mirrors what’s going on statewide.
Bringing this problem to light is the best way to start doing something proactive. The partnerships taking place among government, business and educational institutions around the state should also be happening locally.
John Almstadt, with the Oakland County workforce development team, says the county took months to conduct the survey of 150 area advanced manufacturers. The report focused on what jobs employers had the hardest time filling and what could be done to better match openings with skilled workers.
“It cemented what we thought,” Almstadt says of the report’s findings. The county is planning a similar survey of regional health care employers.
The report underscores employers’ concern with the dearth of new workers coming up the manufacturing pipeline — especially the lack of young people who are pursing careers in advanced manufacturing skills such as engineering, product design and machining.
Almstadt says half of the top 14 in-demand jobs the report identified require a bachelor’s degree and several of the others demand at least an associate’s. These are high-tech jobs, and students ought to start thinking of these potential careers in middle and high school.
So Oakland County officials are smart to bring together employers and educators in the region.
In a statement, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said, “Employers have told us they’re ready to hire, they want to hire, but they can’t find enough qualified applicants to fill these high paying jobs.”
That’s a shame for both the employers who are forced to recruit from other companies as well as for the unemployed who would love a good job. And the demand for these manufacturing jobs is only going to increase. The county chose to focus on manufacturing because of the significant job growth expected in coming years. For instance, University of Michigan economists have predicted the manufacturing sector in the county will add more than 4,000 jobs by 2015.
The county’s findings add to statewide data already distributed by Business Leaders for Michigan and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., among others.
Now that these shortages are known, it’s up to employers and schools to work together to prepare a properly trained 21st century workforce.