The spring awards and recognition events offer exceptional examples of business leaders and organizations walking the talk of inclusion in business ranks and recruitment. The admonishments are aimed at inclusion and mentoring to create the greatest impact on West Michigan’s current and future workforce and new leadership.
On the national level, one CEO has made extraordinary efforts for such inclusion. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz last week donated $30 million to research Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and brain trauma. In November of last year he announced his company would hire 10,000 veterans and veteran spouses. He is walking the talk — and showing others how to do so. Cascade Engineering has been a lead company in this region in such efforts for more than a decade, reaching out to veterans and the disabled.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported late last week that unemployment among military veterans finally edged down, but not by much. The most recent reports show that number to be 9 percent, down from 9.9, while civilian unemployment is at about 7 percent (8 percent in Michigan). Worse, the veterans age 18-24 posted the highest jobless rate of 21.4 percent.
During the Governor’s Economic Summit in Grand Rapids last week Rick Snyder admonished business owners and leaders and called for more collaboration to connect the supply of talent to the demand. He noted Michigan now has about 70,000 open jobs for skilled workers, “which means employers are having difficulty filling them, and that’s not good for the state’s economy.”
It also is likely that means that business owners have to walk outside usual circles and make those connections, as is the theme of the spring recognition events.
The 11 teams of students from nine academic institutions participating at Davenport in The Project in April (see the story on page 1) are focused on another aspect of connecting veterans. Gov. Snyder lent his sponsorship to the competition, which this year seeks to improve awareness and accessibility of federal benefits for Michigan veterans. The governor’s report in 2013 showed Michigan has more than 650,000 military veterans and is ranked 11thfor largest population of veterans in the country, but on a per-capita basis, Michigan veterans rank last as recipients of federal benefits. The student teams are charged with finding solutions to win the competition.
Such desire and skill sets by students in Michigan academic institutions should be matched by those thought to be business leaders in West Michigan.