Focus, Higher Education, and Human Resources

West Michigan employment options and training on rise

March 7, 2014
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Human resource professionals are seeing a promising trend as the job market picks up: For people willing to learn a new skill, there are employers willing to hire them.

There are two emerging facets in human resources and employment patterns for 2014. The first is a sense of optimism from employers in terms of job market growth; the second is a trend of collaboration among organizations to meet the hiring need.

Becca Dernberger, Manpower’s vice president and general manager for its northeast division, said “employment is really picking up” and the company continues to hear optimism and a need to hire from its customers.

“We’re optimistic,” said Dernberger. “Early on, there were various attempts to stimulate the economy — some worked and some didn’t. What makes me optimistic about the uptick we are seeing is that it is sustainable.”

Indications of sustainability can include an increase in industry sectors across the board, temporary jobs shifting into permanent employment, and a need for middle- to upper-level management positions, according to Dernberger.

Manpower is a leader in work-force solutions headquartered in Milwaukee, with branches in Zeeland, Muskegon and Grand Rapids.

“I think West Michigan has a lot of growth right now,” said Dernberger. She said the area benefits from the fact that organizations such as Lakeshore Advantage and The Right Place not only recruit companies to the area but also encourage their growth.

Amy Lebednick, business service representative at Michigan Works Kent and Allegan Counties, a comprehensive work force development agency that provides employment and training programs, said manufacturing has been a driving force for the area in the past and continues to expand. She added that the health care and services industries also show substantial growth.

“We’re also focusing on STEM, which is science, technology, engineering and math, and focusing on those areas because those are projected to grow at a faster rate. … So finding the skills and educating individuals to fill those jobs in the future is important right now.”

Deborah Lyzenga, business service manager at Michigan Works Kent and Allegan Counties, said one issue employers are facing is finding skilled workers to meet the growth.

“I would say that West Michigan is somewhat of a gold mine,” said Lyzenga. “If people are willing to learn a new skill, those employers are willing to hire. There’s some excitement about that.”

A result of the growing demand is that employers have more jobs to offer than the area has talent.

“Employers are very open now to hiring people,” said Lyzenga. “They just have to have the right attitude. Sometimes, what employers are telling us, having the right attitude is having the right soft skills as far as getting to work on time.”

Many employers in the area have approached work-force development boards, community colleges and intermediate school districts to express their needs. In response, Michigan Works is investigating the supply chain of talent within the school systems.

“We are looking at sixth graders through seniors and we’re actually going to be going out and doing ‘talent tours,’” said Lyzenga. “Young people and parents don’t really know what jobs are out there — and what it entails for training.” 

According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s Workplace Forecast of 2013, 73 percent of human resource professionals feel a shortage of skilled workers will have a major impact across the United States in the next five years.

In response to the disconnect between the educated talent coming out of academic institutions and the specific skills needed for employment, several organizations are collaborating to provide proper training to bridge the gap.

Michigan Works partnered with Associated Builders & Contractors Inc. Western Michigan Chapter in January to assist employers in hiring individuals with the proper construction skills and training. Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan Works’ educational partner, built a curriculum of basic construction skills for employees of companies within the builders association. Michigan Works assists with tuition dollars and works with the employers.

“We are stepping in as a partnership now where maybe we didn’t partner as closely before,” said Lyzenga. “But we are seeing some real advantages to that. It’s working very, very well to get people long-term unemployed back to work. So that’s exciting for West Michigan.” 

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