By James A. Mitchell

Careers are made through connections as much as abilities.

And job-seekers have historically struggled to make the right contacts before starting their careers. The Workforce Intelligence Network’s online database – MI Bright Future – was designed to help students and employers find each other in hopes of closing the ongoing skills gap.

“If you talk to business folks, they want to help students,” said Scott Palmer, career and technical education consultant for Macomb Intermediate School District, which partnered with WIN to launch the online tool. “But the two don’t always know how to connect. This provides that link to develop partnerships more easily than one handshake at a time.”

Scott Palmer

Scott Palmer, Macomb School District

MI Bright Future brings together online job postings, message boards, company profiles and mentoring based on the “Career Cruising” networking model. Palmer said that the database is expected to begin populating with the fall 2015 semester.

“We’re at the implementation stage now,” said Palmer. “We put something together that was workable and interesting to all the different stakeholders.”

Expectations for MI Bright Future are of a broader base of information and industry contacts than what had previously been offered through individual school districts or business communities.

“If a business wanted to connect with students they had to jump through four sets of hoops to reach four counties,” said Sarah Sebaly, MI Bright Future Project Coordinator for WIN. “The advantage is a one-point access to community colleges and employers in a regional database.”

Corporate interest has been strong, Sebaly said. Nearly 40 companies have so far participated with resources including career coaches, mock interviews, job shadowing, guest speaking and company tours. As the site is populated by both employers and students, Sebaly said intern, apprentice and scholarship opportunities are likely.

Before launching the MI Bright Future web site, WIN built relationships with education and industry partners in Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair and Livingston counties. Each community has the ability to tailor the portal to specific needs, and school interest ranged from K-12 through community colleges.

“This becomes a springboard for returning the emphasis on career development as a process in our schools,” Palmer said. “That’s been less emphasized in recent years. It also helps solidify partnerships between business and industry and schools and education.”

Palmer said the platform allows students to engage with industry in ways that classroom experiences can’t offer,

“They will have more knowledge of what it means to be an employee,” Palmer said. “They can connect early enough to understand what they need to learn and how to apply it.”

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