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Anyone who looks around Michigan knows this is an exciting time for our state’s energy industry. In the past, people believed that we had to choose between affordable and clean energy – that’s no longer the case. New technologies are making renewable energy more cost effective and reliable than ever, which is why we’ve set ambitious goals to stop burning coal and reduce our carbon emissions by 80 percent.

It’s is also a challenging time. We’re in the middle of a generational turnover in our workforce. Great people who have given their careers to keeping the lights on and helping keep Michiganians warm are retiring. And the talent pipeline to replace those employees needs work.

Today, I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion at the Mackinac Conference for Public Policy about this question. “Is Michigan Prepared?” is the focus of a panel that will bring together thought leaders on this subject. We will discuss many elements of preparedness and specifically highlight the challenge of attracting bright, diverse and talented people to start work today on the jobs of tomorrow.

Our success in addressing this issue is vital to our state’s future. As a company that calls Michigan home and serves two-thirds of Michigan’s residents, we work hard to foster economic development. When Michigan is growing, so is our company. 

In fact, Consumers Energy only wins when Michigan wins. Michigan’s growth depends on a full talent pipeline to serve not just my company but all of our customer’s businesses as well. The good news is that Consumers Energy is taking action now to prepare for the future by engaging with the talent suppliers – our education system. Here’s some of we’ve done:

  • Consumers Energy worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to launch the nation’s first statewide Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Academy. The first academy graduates have trained 153 businesses all across Michigan to use supply chain management principles to address critical hiring needs. 
  • We sponsor MI Bright Future, a new career development web tool providing links between students and employers in Michigan. Through this initiative, students connect with Michigan companies to learn about careers, job shadowing and internship opportunities.

We’re all in for STEM. We’re encouraging the next generation of workers with skills in science, technology, engineering and math by providing funding and resources to school-based robotics programs. As the Co-Chair of the Michigan Host Committee and a sponsor of the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Detroit, we were able to show the world that Michigan is open for business and our kids showed they could compete and win! These students are being prepared to fill the jobs of the future in this dynamic and extremely effective program that brings STEM to life. It is the only sporting event where 100 percent of the participants can go pro

These initiatives to develop talent can’t involve a single organization. Collaboration between business and education is critical to Michigan’s success, laying the groundwork for Michigan’s next generation to work good-paying jobs and grow our state.

We are a force for developing talent here in our home state. When Michigan wins, we all win.

Patti Poppe is president and chief executive officer of Consumers Energy.

 

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