Focus, Human Resources, and Manufacturing

Report: Michigan workers lack upgraded job skills

Study also finds workers in the near future may lack the higher education needed.

March 22, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Michigan, according to the organization Business Leaders for Michigan, is following a national trend and becoming a knowledge-based economy across all industry sectors, including manufacturing and agriculture.

That trend is causing employment and income growth to be increasingly dependent on education levels, and has major consequences on how Michigan should best support economic growth, according to an in-depth study just released by BLM.

“About half of all employers currently hiring for above-average-wage jobs are having some difficulty finding people with the right skills and experience,” said BLM President and CEO Doug Rothwell.

“Skills shortages are common when economies come out of recessions and need to be addressed, but in the future, Michigan will face a greater challenge in producing enough college and university educated talent,” added Rothwell. “The state needs both a well-educated work force that can compete in a knowledge-based economy, and one with constantly upgraded job skills to meet evolving demands.”

The three primary findings of the study commissioned by BLM are:

**In the short run, Michigan generally appears to be producing talent with the right education, but not enough workers have the experience and skills job providers need.

**In the long run, Michigan faces challenges producing enough talent with the right education. Michigan’s slow population growth and low educational attainment cannot keep pace with the projected increase in the demand for classroom-educated talent.

**If current trends continue, Michigan could find itself with too many people seeking lower-skilled, lower-wage jobs and not enough workers for many higher-skilled, higher-wage ones. Further, not all high-paying, high-demand positions may experience a shortage of talent. This will require greater collaboration to anticipate future employer needs through the state’s education systems and responsive training programs.

The BLM study also concluded that it is difficult to forecast future job openings because of a volatile economy and rapidly changing job needs.

“Even high-demand occupations can experience an over-supply of talent when there are more graduates being educated in a field than there are projected job openings,” said Rothwell. “For example, teaching is one of the top 10 high-demand occupations, but we’re projected to graduate more teachers than we can hire in Michigan.”

Businesses surveyed for the study recommended the state expand an online talent matching service (MiTalent.org) to help workers know where the good jobs are and then offer customized education and training that helps them build the skills they need to get those jobs.

Rothwell said the report reinforces BLM’s call for stronger school-to-work transition programs, making college more affordable, dramatically increasing college enrollments by attracting more in- and out-of-state students, and growing or attracting new businesses that leverage Michigan’s inherent strengths such as its unparalleled engineering talent.

“Overall, the good news is that Michigan’s economy is growing again after a decade of job losses, resulting in even stronger demand for educated talent,” Rothwell said. “We live in a dynamic marketplace where economies, businesses and jobs are being redefined faster than ever. A solid foundation of learning, coupled with solid skills and experiences, offers Michigan residents the best opportunity to compete effectively for quality jobs that pay well.”

BLM’s report — Business Leaders’ Insights: Michigan’s Workforce Strengths and Challenges — was developed from statewide surveys and polls, government data sources, and research compiled by Kelly Services-Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. and Anderson Economic Group. It is available at businessleadersformichigan.com/research-reports.

BLM, a state organization of prominent business leaders, is dedicated to making Michigan a top 10 state for growth in jobs, the economy and personal income growth. The leaders, from Michigan's largest companies and universities, represent more than 25 percent of the state’s economy.

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