Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Photo via fb.com
In determining Michigan’s economic future, “probably the single most important issue is talent,” according to Gov. Rick Snyder — specifically, technically skilled talent for Michigan manufacturing and agriculture.
At the 2014 Governor’s Economic Summit in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Snyder called on all regions of the state to collaborate more closely on connecting the supply and the demand for that talent.
The two-day event at DeVos Place was Snyder’s second major gathering on re-building Michigan’s economy and brought in several hundred attendees from throughout the state, representing industry, education and economic development.
Michigan education is “too often focused on a diploma or a degree,” he said, “and not saying, ‘Are you career ready?’”
Snyder said the “the biggest gap” between the supply and demand for employees in Michigan is the skilled trades.
“We made a big mistake. We did not equally emphasize the quality of opportunity in becoming a skilled-trades person,” Snyder said.
He pointed out that in advancing technology today, algebra is among the skill sets required for operating complicated and expensive machinery, both on the factory floor and on farms. But the education process has to make that algebra relevant to the work it will involve.
In demanding more collaboration between the education system and employers, Snyder faulted the employers for a lack of communication. He said many industrial employers simply post job openings.
“In the world of the future, that’s not good enough,” he said, because young people today and the education system “need to know what skills are really required” — which means the employers have to communicate with the education system and provide a definition of the talent they need.
According to Snyder, skilled jobs today can offer careers for men and women with compensation ranging from $50,000 to $80,000 a year and $100,000 or more in some cases.
Michigan now has about 70,000 open jobs for skilled workers, he said — which means employers are having difficulty filling them, and that’s not good for the state’s economy.
Snyder also cited examples of successful connections between organizations around the state that are trying to prepare workers and the companies that hire them.