Putting Greater Lansing to Work

According to Doug Stites, CEO of Capital Area Michigan Works!, “The jobless rate has been improving year over year, both in the state and in our region. Currently Michigan’s unemployment rate runs about 9 percent. We are relatively high in comparison with other states, but we’re way down from where we were. Michigan has had one of the best improvement rates; that is, our economy is improving more rapidly than many other states. This is particularly true in the manufacturing and auto sector, where we are recovering some lost jobs. Last year was the first year in a long time that we have added jobs. “

Stites adds, “We’re the second best region in the state for adding jobs, second only to the Ann Arbor area. Our growth is on the upward trend with, of course, variability from month to month.”

Capital Area Michigan Works! (CAMW) plays a role in that success. As Lansing’s resource for employers and potential employees, it partners with over two dozen agencies to run programs and offer services. CAMW works with job seekers to enhance career opportunities, avail themselves of educational options, and, ultimately, find a job. Employers come to CAMW to find the right people for available positions.  Since services are provided at no cost, it’s a win-win situation for everyone, employers and employees alike, and helps grow the local and regional economy.

While CAMW as a legal entity employs only a staff of 17, there are 26 different agencies, institutions and organizations who work with them that are branded as part of CAMW. There are in excess of 400 programs offered through the agency and its partners.

Funding from the state and federal government to CAMW has been cut 30 percent  for next year. It is unclear what this will mean to the agency in terms of staff and program cuts.

Stites says, “People who come to us are looking for whatever job they can find, but there’s still a skills gap issue here. People are unemployed, but unfortunately many don’t have the skills that match the jobs that are available. To address that issue, we may put people into training or educational programs that will teach them new skills or upgrade their skills to the level required by the employer. “

He continues, “Michigan lost about 850,000 jobs through the recession, many in older manufacturing facilities. Those jobs aren’t coming back. So this wasn’t like a typical recession where, say, car sales go down but then go back up. No, these jobs are permanently gone. Some of those dislocated workers, in order to find a job with comparable wages, will have to be retrained for new jobs. Some of them we’re able to send to school. Some may find other types of training on their own.”     

CAMW works closely with both Lansing Community College and Michigan State University as well as other training and educational institutions. According to Stites, about 60 percent of those they sponsor for additional training go to public institutions. There is a list on the agency’s website of a selected list of occupations for which CAMW may facilitate training. These are occupations which CAMW believes are high-demand, high-wage positions in the region.

According to Stites, “High-demand occupations right now are information technology, healthcare and high end advanced manufacturing, such as wind technology and medical instruments. We have at least two employers locally, Emergent BioSolutions and Neogen Corporation, who work in the bio-sciences and are strong, growing companies. And the region continues to be strong in finance and insurance.

“We think there will be about 6,000 to 8,000 openings in healthcare just in this region in the next six to eight years; half of those will be to replace those who are retiring and half in growth in new job creation.”     feature_mil

Stites emphasizes the importance of education. “All of the available high-wage, high-demand  jobs require post-secondary education of some sort. Good grades in high school, especially in science and math, in order to be able to achieve further training after high school are essential. There are virtually no jobs for high school dropouts.”

Besides advocating advanced education and training, Stites has other advice for job seekers.  He says, “First, come to CAMW. If you’ve been laid off, you have to register with us to be eligible for unemployment. And, whether you’ve been laid off or not, we can help you find resources to help in your search. Then, be persistent and organized. The job won’t come to you; you have to go out and find the job. Rely on networking. An amazing number of jobs will be found through networking, social media and connectivity. Make use of connecting to other people. There are groups in the area like Grand River Connection and Young, Smart and Global that provide networking opportunities. Years ago, these resources were unheard of; they are now invaluable.

“Don’t be totally inactive. Be a volunteer. Apply for internships. Keep yourself connected in the community and keep learning. Find creative solutions. It’s a tough market out there, and finding a job isn’t as easy as it used to be. But, by working with available resources through CAMW and its partners, it can be done.”

Author: Jane Whittington.
Photography: Terri Shaver.

Capital Area Michigan Works!

Doug Stites, CEO

2110 S. Cedar St.



311 W. First St.



101 W. Cass St., Ste. A

St. Johns




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