Broad goal: Build a local workforce

Sherri Welch| Crain’s Detroit Business

Rachel Sanford (left), a student at Macomb Community College, and Sherry Abraham (right), a student at Wayne County Community College District, listen to advice.

Even though they may be doing much of their hiring from the same pool of résumés, a growing roster of metro Detroit employers are working together to find talent.

Whether of their own accord or convened by groups like the Workforce Intelligence Network, the companies from the health care, IT and manufacturing industries are getting people trained and in the pipeline for positions.

They’re putting in place systems to track pending retirements and shortages, working with colleges to ensure curriculums are in place to train for high-demand positions, and adding more training programs. And they’re adding more formalized ways to give students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and valuable employer contacts.

“In Southeast Michigan, we’ve always had this huge issue of competition,” said Lisa Katz, executive director of the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan. WIN is a coalition of eight local community colleges, seven MichiganWorks agencies and economic development agencies working with local employers to gauge real-time employment needs and respond to them.

“Now, we’ve found this question of talent is really bringing employers together because they realize they all are facing the same uncertainty when it comes to filling their talent needs,” Katz said.

For years, there have been warnings of expected talent shortages in areas like engineering and skilled trades such as CNC operators and welders, but they weren’t employers’ top priorities leading up to the recession, Katz said.

“They were talking about outsourcing, other things tied to the economy and our ability to compete,” she said.

Workers from Quicken Loans are among the participants in the “IT in the D” program.

Today, the employers in these recovering industries are choosing to be allies in the war for talent.

IT connections

Several Detroit-based companies that have struggled to find IT talent came together last year to launch “IT in the D,” a 10-week program that gives aspiring IT professionals the chance to apply book knowledge to a real-world experience working on a shell project in a team environment. They also gain exposure to multiple IT employers in Detroit.

Volunteer mentors from each company work with the students on a project created to give them experience but not to benefit any of the corporate members. The first two groups worked to create an IT in the D website. The third project group began May 23.

“The companies here understand that for us to get the resources we need, we have to stop our students from leaving the state,” said Ryan Hoyle, director of global recruiting at GalaxE.Solutions, one of five current members of the group.

“We don’t care who these individuals end up working for, as long as they stay here in their region and the talent pool of IT professionals continues to grow.”

Quicken CIO Linglong He

Compuware Ventures, Quicken Loans, Marketing Associates and Fathead are also part of the effort. Title Source and Urban Science Inc. recently signed on, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy Co. and Microsoft Corp. are considering joining the program.

There’s no commitment to hire the students in the program. But the employers are looking at ways to better align the students seeking jobs with opportunities, either within their companies or at other local companies seeking IT talent, Hoyle said.

Each company has a vested interest in helping to develop more qualified talent, said Quicken CIO Linglong He. But more importantly, “it’s (about) doing the right thing … we don’t want to see the talent (leave) Michigan. We want to help each other.”

Quicken has hired about eight of the 46 students who have come through the program so far and were seeking positions, He said. Hoyle said the idea-sharing is significant, especially among competitors.

Jamie Hamilton (left), vice president of technology at Quicken Loans, and Ryan Hoyle (right) of GalaxE.Solutions, share a platform.

“The fact that these organizations are able to come together and set that aside … it actually benefits (them) because now you have leaders from different companies sharing missions and objectives,” he said.

Manufacturing needs

Manufacturers are also comparing notes on the best ways to meet their common employment needs.

Rochester Hills-based Hi-Tech Mold and Engineering Inc. hosted about 20 manufacturers and representatives from MichiganWorks and area community colleges in October to discuss the lack of CNC machinists in the market and the skills needed for qualified candidates. It continued a conversation that started about two years ago at another meeting convened by WIN, said Denise Witucki, human resources manager for Hi-Tech.

The discussion moved from the lack of classes for CNC machinists at area community colleges to discussion of the need for manufacturers to get into K-12 schools to talk with students and shift the perception of manufacturing careers back to a positive note.

Community colleges said they didn’t have enough interested students to fill the classes and were forced to cancel them, she said.

“We were looking at (whether we could) make (CNC machining) into some sort of degree, because it really seems parents are pushing kids to get a degree,” Witucki said.

For its part, Hi-Tech takes on co-op students in CNC machining, injection molding design and mechatronics from Utica Community Schools, and it has an apprenticeship program with Oakland Community College, she said. But there are only a handful of students in those programs.

Despite its outreach, Hi-Tech still has four to five CNC machinist positions to fill and is working with a recruiter to do so, Witucki said.

Twenty years ago, there were skill centers and wood shops and more hands-on opportunities in schools to give students exposure to manufacturing trades, she said. But those have gone away as budget cuts have taken hold.

“We’re not seeing the next generation coming for these types of skilled trades jobs, and that’s what a lot of the employers are concerned with,” Witucki said. “We need to get into the high schools and grade schools to change the perception of manufacturing.”

WIN is discussing the needs of employers with groups such as the Engineering Society of Detroit, Society of Automotive Engineers, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and Southeast Michigan Community Alliance, many of which are providing hands-on experiences for children in various STEM fields, said Al Lecz, director, employer strategies, for WIN.

“We are … trying to instill the mindset that this is not a dead-end system,” he said.

Some of the colleges that attended the October meeting have modified their skilled trades programs to ensure they include the skills employers are requesting, Lecz said.

And others are launching new programs. OCC, for example, has started a mechatronics program to help meet demand in that area, a multidisciplinary field of study that includes the combination of mechanical, electronic, computer software, controls and systems engineering.

Health care health

One of the most talked about areas of shortages for years has been in health care.

Six local health care systems — Beaumont Health System, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit Medical Center, Trinity Health-Michigan, St. John Providence Health System and Oakwood Health System — are planning a project to track the number of nurses, medical technologists and other health care professionals they collectively employ and the number approaching retirement age. This will help them project future talent needs, communicate opportunities to the public and work with colleges to ensure classes are offered in those areas.

The group, the Southeastern Michigan Health System Human Resources Executive Council, came together around 2005. Their work at that time resulted in a system to help place more nursing students into positions where they could practice the skills they were learning and to credential them.

Linda Kruso

Facing new workforce challenges, the six systems reconvened last fall.

This time, they needed to train their current and future workforce on the new federal medical coding requirements that will come online in October 2014, said Linda Kruso, director of workforce planning at Beaumont. In addition, they needed to talk about a projected shortage in surgical nurses.

Yet another area of concern is the impending retirements of as many as 25-30 percent of the systems’ medical technologists over the next few years, Kruso said. Medical technologists test urine, blood or other body fluids, either by doing manual tests themselves or running automated tests.

“We’re working on developing a database where we’ll share information about our respective workforces so we can make some projections collectively around talent gaps, looking at the potential for retirements,” Kruso said.

By sharing that information, the health systems can work with the schools to make sure they’re training the needed talent. And they could also use it to promote job opportunities to the public, she said.

J. Paul Conway

The collaboration has many practical benefits, J. Paul Conway, senior vice president, human resources for Oakwood, said in an emailed statement.

The collaboration better aligns education with job requirements and reduces duplication of efforts across systems, he said.

“All these institutions share in the responsibility to ensure the region develops the best talent base possible to maintain the most caring and competent caregivers for the people of Southeast Michigan,” Conway said.
Sherri Welch: (313) 446-1694, Twitter: @sherriwelch

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