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2014 June 23 - 04:32 am

Mich. Targeting Shortage of Skilled Workers

Governor Wants More Emphasis Placed on Skilled Trades and Technical Training

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — Michigan can gain a competitive edge over other states by filling a skills gap that leads to good jobs going unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates, Gov. Rick Snyder said.

“The jurisdiction, the place that does this the best over the next few years will have a strategic economic advantage,” he told a crowd during his keynote speech at the Mackinac Policy Conference, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual meeting for more than 1,500 business, political and civil leaders. “Companies will be coming to that location because there is such a national problem with this issue. When you talk about issues and you talk about the future, I put this at the top of the list.”

Snyder said, as he has before, that there are at least 70,000 unfilled positions listed on a statesponsored jobs website. That’s despite a seasonally adjusted state unemployment rate of 7.4 last month, higher than the national average of 6.3 percent.

“That’s an understated number,” he said of the jobs total, adding that employers have told him they do not bother posting five or 10 more of the same kind of job because they cannot fill one.

Snyder said he has held economic and education summits to encourage collaboration between businesses and colleges or technical institutes, but added that is ``still not good enough.’’ University degrees in science, technology, engineering and math are important, but Michigan has failed to underscore the significance of skilled trades and career technical programs, he said.

“That is a huge opportunity. We need to get out there,” Snyder said.

Snyder, who is seeking re-election later this year, mentioned some programs designed to fix the problem, including the Michigan Advanced Technician Training program, where employers pay tuition for three years for employees who rotate between working and getting an advanced associate degree.

A similar program is Grand Rapids Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

Kalamazoo Valley Community College President Marilyn Schlack said K-12 school districts have deemphasized technical education.

“It’s expensive. Students haven’t wanted to be involved,” she said.

Schlack said the college and school districts partnered to create a consortium to encourage students to have a hands-on experience in welding, nursing, hospitality and graphic arts.


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