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Have Jobs, Will Train: Manufacturers to Make their Case

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CADILLAC, Mich., January 18, 2013 — As Michigan's economy gains momentum after the Great Recession of 2008, manufacturing is rebounding.

That's the good news. Orders are up.

But finding people with the skills needed to fill these orders, even in a time of high unemployment, is the challenge.

A Manpower survey recently found that 49 percent of U.S. employers have trouble filling "skilled trades" jobs. Locally, the most difficult jobs to fill, according to Donna Corbin of Northwest Michigan Works, are machining and welding jobs.

The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments has received a grant to create job-training programs to meet the needs of local industries. The first step in the process is an Advanced Manufacturing Talent Summit being held at the Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center on Jan. 25.

At the luncheon summit, manufacturers will define their skill shortages and describe the jobs they need to fill. When the summit ends, training programs will be developed and later advertised through the Cadillac Michigan Works office.

"We've seen lots of skill gaps in manufacturing," said Jaclyn Sanborn of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. "We've had a resurgence in manufacturing after the recession. And because of the new technology, the work force needs to upgrade their skills. We see a need to provide intensive, short-term training to our employers."

The reason for the skill gap is the technological changes in manufacturing.

"Manufacturing today is different than it used to be," said Corbin. "Some people have worked for years in manufacturing, but before these changes. And if they were laid off for a long period, they don't have the most recent skills."

In addition to fast-paced changes on manufacturing floors, the public was led to believe that outsourcing had led to a huge decline in U.S. manufacturing output.

Not so, say manufacturing executives Bruce Shafer and Todd Bennington.

"The U.S. remains the world's largest manufacturing economy," said Bennington, Borg Warner Plant manager.

Bennington, who recently transferred back to Cadillac from a South Carolina Borg Warner facility, stated that on average, his employees there were earning more than local school teachers and administrators.

"People don't know about these jobs," said Shafer, vice president of Rexair. "But for modern manufacturing to be competitive, it is automated. And if you don't have skilled trades, you can't operate the factories."

"We are building a pipeline of workers . . . with a continuum of learning and skill upgrades to the current work force," stated Sanborn. "We work closely with educational institutions like Baker College and the Wexford-Missaukee ISD. Scholarships will be available for job seekers to participate in programs designed to offer training that will provide them with the skills that local manufacturers need."

The Advanced Manufacturing Talent Summit is sponsored by Northwest Michigan Works, Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, the Wexford-Missaukee ISD and Baker College.

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