West Michigan’s economic toolbox is missing key IT skills in education, workforce


The Wall Street Journal on May 2 reported Amazon.com Inc. HQ2 research leaders called 20 of the 238 applicants for its second headquarters to explain why those metro areas were dropped from selection. The answers were not that surprising. As the Business Journal reported in March, one among those bidders, The Right Place Inc., had determined itself that talent and public transportation were stumbling blocks. What is more striking in the WSJ report is several of those rejected metro areas made immediate changes to improve economic toolboxes for any future opportunities. Most specifically, they are focusing on information-technology training.

The Business Journal has previously noted in comment the woeful disadvantages of dreadful student education attainment, ranking fourth-grade reading proficiencies at 46th among all U.S. students. Math scores were barely better. And what is especially significant now, as legislators and some business groups attempt to maintain their grandfather’s training programs, others are refocused on IT specifically. From Cincinnati to Sacramento. These include chambers of commerce leading apprentice programs for high school students with community information-technology firms. The Greater Sacramento Economic Council CEO told WSJ the agency was refocusing all its workforce programs on digital training skills.

Instead, Michigan and Grand Rapids leaders continue to focus on old manufacturing standards, even as manufacturers in dozens of Business Journal reports have begged for talent with IT capabilities as they continue investment in robotics. Hiring among IT firms has dominated grbj.com reports.

The Business Journal reports this week on Grand Rapids Community College and Compass College of Cinematic Arts offering classes to help students meet the current and future demand of workers with drone-operating skills. With recent speculation a possible Amazon fulfillment center may be behind the secret door of “Project Rapids” coming to the area (neighboring the data center Switch), GRCC officials decided it was the “right time” to start offering classes. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International foresees the creation of more than 100,000 jobs in drone work by 2025 and an economic impact of $82 billion.

It is one small example among hundreds, as the IT industry rockets further into the future.

What’s in your economic toolbox?

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