Snyder unveils new initiative to remake workforce

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 1 2011 12:51 p.m. MST

Gov. Rick Snyder addresses an audience at Delta College to announce his talent initiative on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 Snyder unveiled a new website Pure Michigan Talent Connect as part of his workforce talent initiative.

The Saginaw News, Brittney Lohmiller, Associated Press

UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich. — Michigan needs a new approach to connecting people with employment and training, whether the jobseeker is a welfare recipient struggling with illiteracy or a laid-off worker who can't launch a business because she'd immediately lose her jobless benefits, Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday.

Snyder, who unveiled his talent development plan to about 100 people at Delta College, said the state must rethink education, job training and economic development if it hopes to drastically lower an unemployment rate that has hovered in double digits for more than two years.

"Obviously, you can't fill every job, because there will always be openings," Snyder said. "But if you start saying, 'Can we cut that number in half?' that would drop the unemployment rate by a whole percentage point. And that's a lot of jobs and major improvement."

On education, the Republican governor wants community colleges, universities and trade schools to focus on areas that are in demand and stop "overproducing" graduates in areas where workers aren't needed in Michigan.

Snyder didn't specify which education programs are producing more graduates than are required, but said a current imbalance "creates a population of young talent that cannot find work in Michigan, is saddled with debt and is ultimately forced to leave the state."

The Michigan Education Association has estimated 5,000 of the 7,500 annual graduates of college education programs in Michigan go to jobs in other states, but the governor said he isn't trying to discourage anyone from pursuing those careers.

Snyder instead said it makes more sense for students to get degrees in computer programming, math, health care and engineering — all areas where the state isn't producing enough graduates to fill the need, according to the Center for Michigan.

He also wants more people to engage in training for trades such as welding and manufacturing.

"They should be looking to where there are future opportunities," he said, adding it may make sense for the state to put more money into education and training programs for "critical skill areas."

Mike Boulus, executive director of the President's Council that represents the 15 state universities, said college administrators agree with the need to grant more degrees in math and science and give students the skills to compete in the global marketplace.

But he said he hopes the focus doesn't narrow down to just careers that are in demand at the moment, noting "the jobs of today may not be the jobs of tomorrow."

Snyder noted during his speech that a recent Georgetown University study estimated 62 percent of Michigan jobs will require a post-secondary credential, while only 35 percent of state residents currently hold one.

Boulus said the state has made it more difficult for residents to get a college degree by repeatedly cutting funding for higher education, a move he wants to see reversed in future budgets.

"We've done a decade of shared sacrifice," Boulus said. "It's time for more shared commitment."

To help students and workers find out information about careers, educational and training opportunities and job openings, Snyder launched the Pure Michigan Talent Connect website Thursday.

The site is intended to give employers and jobseekers a place to find each other and allow workers to assess their skills and connect with mentors and internships.

"It's a much better tool compared to simply saying, 'Here are open jobs,'" as traditional job sites do, he said.

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