Michigan Labor Shortage: A Crossroad or Roundabout?


Perhaps now, more than at any time in recent history, all eyes are on manufacturing and the economy. Particularly in Michigan where conversations concerning talent gaps, labor shortages and a living wage are a common occurrence.
Is there really a labor shortage or are companies just not willing to pay for the skills they want?
With advances in automation, are there still opportunities for unskilled labor? If not, how do we bridge the [perceived] talent gap and raise skill levels to get people back to work or keep people on the job?
How do we dispel the myth or fulfill the need?
If we are at a crossroad, you may expend a lot of energy tackling whichever side of the issue you uphold. If you believe the talent gap is real, you’ll be hard at work identifying the latest technologies and getting ahead of new innovations in materials and processes to identify and train for those skills. If you believe it has more to do with employers inability or unwillingness to pay for the desired skill-sets, you might focus on emphasizing the cost of recruiting & assimilating new hires, highlight the benefit of experience when it comes to problem solving and engineering details, or help companies remove excess cost and operational waste so there is additional profit available to add incentives or raise wages.
You’ll inevitably run up against those who are coming at the issue from the opposite spectrum and you may end up in a traffic jam, both sides so focused on its own agenda that no one gets anywhere.
It’s a fairly complex issue because I’m sure that there is a little truth in every argument. For every unemployed person looking for work, there are those with decades of talent and experience and those with very little. For every company willing and able to offer jobs that reward that expertise, there are others limping along and just as in need of talent and skills, but only capable of paying industry minimums. With new technologies and industry standards calling for process improvements, light weighting and the development of advance materials, there are opportunities for those with today’s skills to combine it with computer, electronics, and/or design skills to enhance their skill-set and boost their demand in today’s job market.
If we consider the opportunities facing Michigan as if we’re at a roundabout . . . might it be possible then, to continue to tackle this issue on many fronts, until we see progress. Ideally, the right talent, with the right technology, at a fair wage, making the right products, will lead to a more prosperous and steady economy.
Recent legislation on its way to the White House, reauthorizes and streamlines federal job training programs. This bill authorizes $58 billion in federal workforce development programs over 6 years.
The State of Michigan has robust tools at Pure Michigan Talent Connect including job fairs, career explorers, the MAT2 program, and other initiatives to put workers and Veterans back to work. Michigan Works! Associations across the state cultivate professional development opportunities with local community colleges and businesses to get you linked to the right skills quickly. Our own product offerings include CEUs that can help with professional development. A complete list of MMTC services can be found online.
While the hotly contested debate rages and more and more voices are added to the mix, it’s important to step away from the rhetoric and look at the fundamental question. Where do we go from here?
What do you think?

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Categories: U.S. Manufacturing, workforce