Michigan’s had a complicated relationship with manufacturing jobs for a long time now.
Unemployment in Michigan is at a 20-year low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and employment in manufacturing is on the rise, yet some scars still remain from the most recent economic recession.
Still, manufacturing continues to be a cornerstone of our region’s employment base and economy, albeit a misunderstood one.
Despite the tri-county area’s long history with manufacturing, it’s still only our fourth largest sector as of 2018. Trade, Transportation and Utilities; Education and Health Services; and Professional and Business Services comprise larger percentages and more jobs in the Lansing-East Lansing Metropolitan Statistical Area according to the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.
This is a dramatic shift from 2000, when manufacturing was second only to Trade, Transportation and Utilities. In that time, Manufacturing has decreased in size from 27,818 jobs to 19,568 jobs, while Trade Transportation and Utilities has remained relatively flat, Professional and Business Services has declined slightly (by just under 2,000 jobs) and Education and Health Services has grown by more than 8,000 jobs.
We can’t ignore the impact of automation and trade on manufacturing, but another critical aspect holding back its jobs growth is a mismatch of skills in the workforce and a lack of available labor.
Capital Area Michigan Works! has long served the manufacturing industry and continues to maintain strong partnerships with organizations such as the Capital Area Manufacturing Council, Lansing Community College’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence and others to address the manufacturing skills gaps and attract new talent to jobs in manufacturing. With our many partners, we’ve been able to host events such as MiCareerQuest Capital Area, a hands-on career exploration event for thousands of students, and National Manufacturing Day, which celebrates manufacturing career pathways and gives employers a chance to showcase job opportunities.
Most recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II launched a massive new Going PRO campaign, the largest effort in Michigan’s history to promote professional trades including manufacturing. Why? Because manufacturing and other skilled trade jobs are expected to continue to grow annually. The campaign will invest millions of dollars to raise awareness about Michigan’s skilled workers gap and help train workers for the expected 15,000 open positions each year.
CAMW! is dedicated to ensuring potential employees have the proper education and skills to fill these positions. Despite the shifts in the industry, positions in manufacturing in the Lansing area still pay around $1,284 per week, compared to $919 per week for the average employed Greater Lansing resident.
“We’ve got to fill thousands of jobs in the skilled trades here in Michigan. That starts by making sure every Michigander has a path to a high-wage career,” Whitmer told the Michigan Manufacturers Association in January. “Manufacturers can help by partnering with the Michigan Works! system, school districts, higher education institutions and apprenticeship programs to develop training programs that lead directly to in-demand jobs.”
One critical opportunity focus is to grow apprenticeship opportunities in our region. An apprenticeship is an arrangement with an employer that includes a paid-work component and an educational or instructional component while the apprentice gains knowledge and skills in the trades. A registered apprenticeship is distinguished by the U.S. Department of Labor and results in an industry-recognized credential.
“Employers are seeing the benefits of increasing the use of apprenticeships in the skilled trades,” said Jay LaNew, business services/apprenticeship liaison for Capital Area Michigan Works!. “The most in-demand apprenticeship positions in mid-Michigan include electricians, plumbers and pipe fitters, mechatronics, carpentry and health care workers. There is a serious talent gap, and employers are eager to groom the next generation of skilled workers.”
In addition to her vocal support of decreasing the talent gap, Whitmer is also taking action in the manufacturing sector. She teamed up with the CEO of Fiat Chrysler to support a new state-of-the-art assembly plant in Detroit and made a case for Michigan as a business and manufacturing hub at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C., last month. But, as local employers, there is more we can do to decrease the talent gap right here and prepare future manufacturing employers.
“Local employers have an opportunity to take action by helping to train people who want to live and work in greater Lansing,” LaNew said. “In doing so, we are strengthening the future of our region’s skilled trades talent together.”
Now is the time to help shake the stigma of manufacturing and help to grow and strengthen this critical economic base for our region and our state. What can you do to make an impact?
To learn more about Going PRO, visit www.going-pro.com, and visit www.camw.org to connect with the Capital Area Michigan Works! team, or to learn more about apprenticeship programs.
Edythe Copeland is the CEO of Capital Area Michigan Works! Visit www.camw.org to connect with the Capital Area Michigan Works! team for assistance with career exploration or staffing needs. Capital Area Michigan Works!, a proud partner of the American Job Center Network, offers services in Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties at our Lansing, St. Johns and Charlotte American Job Centers.