Hometown Life

Increased technical skills for job applicants and better worker recruitment techniques for employers are among the recommendations to help advanced manufacturers fill job openings, according to a regional survey of advanced manufacturers commissioned by Oakland County.

The Skills Needs Assessment Project, a six-month regional survey of 150 advanced manufacturers in Oakland County and surrounding counties, was conducted to help understand why advanced manufacturing jobs were vacant and how to fill them. It concluded the greatest challenge for regional employers to overcome is the virtually non-existent pipeline of young workers to fill available jobs and insufficient training programs to meet current demand.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson recently released the results of the survey to about 250 employers, educators and community leaders at the Troy Marriott Hotel during “Business Works in Oakland County.” The session provided Patterson, the Oakland County Workforce Development Board and the Michigan Works! program with a chance to discuss the survey and some of the services available to employees and employers.

“I think we’ve hit a raw nerve with the survey,” Patterson said. “We now have documented evidence for employers as to the skills they need to put people to work in good-paying jobs.”

Survey says

The 48-page survey provided an in-depth look at advanced manufacturing and how educators can best prepare their curricula and students for employment in that field. It also identified the skills and education job seekers need to qualify for one of a host of attractive advanced manufacturing opportunities. The survey identified the top 14 jobs in advanced manufacturing, the median salary, the educational requirements and the number of job openings expected from now until 2018.

The survey said the most difficult job to fill was mechanical engineer followed by tool-and-die makers and machinists. The complete report is available online at www.advantageoakland.com.

“We’ve been attempting to rebuild an economy by trading employees between companies,” said Deputy Oakland County Executive Matthew Gibb. “We hear every day that this company or that company is taking five employees from someone else instead of addressing the core issue. We have a lack of interest in training in careers that are the very backbone of our economy here. We have to quit trading employees like baseball cards and get them interested in these careers like those available in advanced manufacturing.”

Why this sector?

Advanced manufacturing was chosen because of the significant job growth expected in that sector within the next three years and because companies have been unable to operate at full capacity because they can’t find skilled workers.

University of Michigan economists George Fulton and Don Grimes predicted in an economic forecast of job growth that advanced manufacturing will add 4,125 jobs by 2015. Patterson and the Workforce Development Board determined that advanced manufacturing should be examined to help answer why demand far outweighed the supply of qualified workers and provide possible solutions.

Among the issues:

• The pipeline of qualified employees that once met the needs of advanced manufacturers no longer exists

• Advanced manufacturing jobs require strong basic and technical skills

• Employers said they can’t find qualified workers for current job openings and future opening will go unfilled

“Employers have told us they’re ready to hire, they want to hire, but they can’t find enough qualified applicants to fill these high paying jobs,” Patterson said. “These are jobs that will go unfilled unless we find qualified workers.”

EdEn Inc., the Rochester-based research firm which conducted the survey, said the results showed an increasing level of technical knowledge is critical for jobs regardless of education level. They also revealed that not all employers use the most modern methods when recruiting potential employees.

“Some companies are still putting a sign out in front of the business looking for employees instead of using social media or more modern techniques,” Gibb said. “We’ve got to do better.”

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