Crain’s Custom Media
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series offering perspective from the candidates for governor on talent issues facing the region and the state. Crain’s Custom Media (a subsidiary of Crain’s Detroit Business), in partnership with the Workforce Intelligence Network, offered the same questions to both candidates.
Answers from Mark Schauer were listed last week. Answers from Rick Snyder, are listed below.
Q: There is a growing gap between the needs of employers and the training of the workforce. What is driving the skills gap in Michigan and how can the state government best play a role in fixing it?
The skills gap is the most critical issue facing Michigan’s economic future. There are more than 80,000 good-paying jobs available in Michigan, but the workforce needs skills that are better aligned with the demands on business. Not only in Michigan but also nationally, we pushed students toward getting four-year college degrees when pursuing a career in the skilled-trades might have made more sense. The skilled trades gap started when everyone started to believe that pursuing a four-year education at the university level was the only step out of high school. We didn’t equally emphasize skilled-trades. The state government should partner to help connect the talent in the education sector with the demands of the business sector, and raise awareness about the good jobs available in high-skilled fields.
Q: Regarding the skills gap, how does the government play a role in working with the education community, the private sector and the nonprofits to address the problem?
Educational and training institutions along with the government need to partner with businesses to connect their needs with potential employees. It’s all about the “Three-C’s.” It’s about collaborating with the private sector and seeing where they need jobs filled, creating talent through the education sector to ensure we’re effectively preparing students, and then connecting the talent from the education sector to the private sector.
Q: Employers need skilled workers now, both in terms of new hires but also their existing workforce. What policies and investments could help train workers looking for jobs who do not currently have the skills employers need at the moment?
Launched in 2011, the Pure Michigan Talent Connect connects talented individuals with available opportunities for training, education, and employment. Through this site, employers can also more easily connect with these individuals. We also have programs in Michigan designed to train workers for high-skilled, high-wage jobs. One example is the MAT-Squared program which we launched a couple of years ago, and it was successful. Students learn theoretical and practical skills while working for a company that is paying for that student’s associate’s degree. After the three-year program is complete, there is a full-time job waiting for successful MAT-Squared graduates. It’s a win-win for workers who are looking for a good-paying job, and for employers who are looking for skilled and talented employees.
Q: What policies and investments could help employers grow the skills of their current workforce, given constant and rapid shifts in technology and the economy?
We have to develop talent in our education sector that is skilled enough to fill the needs of our employers. We need to continue to help Michiganders upgrade their skills, but we also need to have a pipeline of talent from other states and countries that will contribute to Michigan’s robust comeback. To attract talent from other states, the MichAGAIN Program identifies talent around the country with ties to Michigan and encourages them to stay, return, or invest back here in Michigan. Together, we’re working to ensure that there is enough talent available for the positions our employers are looking to fill.
Q: Are our K-12 schools, higher education systems and vocational schools doing enough right now to train the workforce of tomorrow? If not, what do they need to be successful?
Recently, I signed a bill that revised the Michigan Merit Curriculum to give schools more flexibility to enhance Michigan’s career tech education programs. This will allow more students to take classes while in high school where they can obtain the skills necessary to succeed in a high-skilled, high-wage jobs available here in Michigan. We will continue to maintain high educational standards, but we should also be giving students the opportunity to take courses that combines both the math skills and the hands-on learning.
Q: In addition to the items listed in the answers above, how else do you see your administration playing a role in helping to craft a Michigan workforce that is prepared for the needs of our innovative employers?
We must connect talent with the opportunities that will be available for Michiganders as we continue to create more and better jobs in Michigan. It starts with preparing our students for careers that will be in demand after graduation. We’ve invested more than $5 million in the past two budgets for Michigan’s FIRST Robotics program, a national high-school competition where students work alongside engineers to build, program, and design robots. Michigan, in fact, has the most FIRST Robotics teams than any other state in the country. We will also continue to encourage students to look at careers in the STEM field. Finally, skilled trades lead to good-paying jobs, and we are going to lead the country in that arena.