Editor, The Independent:
Local school districts are playing a critical role in building the talent pipeline. On the eve of several school millage votes throughout Shiawassee County, I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the role these school districts are playing in dealing with a most critical issue – building the talent pipeline.
Our organization works to attract, retain and grow jobs and investment in Shiawassee County, and I’m pleased to report that our community is at the leading edge of Michigan’s economic comeback. The September unemployment rate is at 4.3 percent (below the state average and the lowest since December 2000), and more importantly, we have added approximately 2,500 net new jobs since 2010.
This economic rebound has also revealed a major challenge to our future growth – a lack of skilled talent to fill open jobs. We talk to our clients (including many manufacturers) who discuss their daily struggle to find people who have the abilities to do the work they need, including welding, machining, engineering, programming, truck driving and many more occupations.
Rather than look backward asking why this is happening, we are working hard on being pro-active with creative new solutions to address the situation. Efforts thus far include: *Working with Baker College to promote training programs and dollars available to help individuals develop the skills needed for growth industries. *Utilizing social media and websites, print media and job fairs to increase awareness of employment opportunities. *Beginning development of a marketing strategy that will encourage commuters to work closer to home (68 percent of our residents leave the county for work every day), and also help to attract new talent to move to the county by promoting our quality of life.
As four of our school districts – Byron, Corunna, Durand and Owosso – have millage proposals on the ballot in November, it is an important time for voters to ask, are our K-12 systems doing their part in developing talent?
I’m very pleased to report that the answer is most definitely! All of our eight districts and the Shiawassee Regional Education Service District not only recognize the talent shortage, but they are also taking significant steps to better prepare our kids for the jobs that local firms have now and into the future. In addition to working more closely with our organization, recent examples include: *Building partnerships with local businesses to enhance their CTE (Career and Technical Education) courses that develop skills for specific careers. *Supporting a job fair and a series of talent tours, allowing students to meet with area companies in various industries (e.g. manufacturing, engineering, agribusiness, logistics) and learn about job and internship opportunities. *Starting and growing robotics teams that create more knowledge of manufacturing, engineering, business and more.
I realize there are several factors that go into consideration when voting for these proposals, and there are strong feelings on both sides (yes and no). In my opinion however, all citizens should be confident that our districts are doing their best to ensure our children are ready for the numerous local employment opportunities that await them once they graduate.
Justin Horvath, President, CEO
Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership