MARQUETTE - Though job creation is still vitally important to Michigan, the state may also have something of a workforce issue, according to Gov. Rick Snyder.
Snyder said it has become apparent to him that the state should increase its focus on training people for available jobs.
"We do need more jobs, but there are a lot of job openings for skilled tradespeople," Snyder said Friday in an interview with The Mining Journal. "Right now, we sort of have this mismatch of people looking for work and companies having openings. I've seen it across the state."
GOV. RICK SNYDER
Snyder was wrapping up a tour of the Upper Peninsula and said that during his trip - stops included Menominee, Iron River, Iron Mountain, Ironwood, Escanaba and Marquette - he has seen a familiar issue: Companies are often looking to hire, but can't find skilled workers.
"It got reinforced more when I talked to the companies here," he said. "They would hire more if they could find the right skilled tradespeople - the machinist, the welder."
That mismatch helped to spur the creation of mitalent.org, a statewide online career portal. Snyder said the site advertises about 80,000 job openings.
"We still have too much unemployment. We're at 9 percent," he said. "But we have 80,000 open jobs. Eighty thousand open jobs, if they were all filled, equates to two percentage points of our unemployment rate. That's a huge swing."
The governor said he would like the state to place an increased focus on training tradespeople.
When a student reaches high school, Snyder said they should have the opportunity to receive vocational training, whether it is being offered by a high school, an intermediate school district or a local college.
"I don't worry about who does it as much as having it available," he said. "That is something we need to do. We sort of need to bring together all the players to say this shouldn't be people fighting about who is going to do this, this should be people all coming together to say, 'Let's just make sure we get it done.' That's the focus I have."
The state's role should be a facilitator in the process, according to Snyder, who described a three-phase approach.
First, there should be an understanding of what types of employees the private sector needs. Next, institutions able to provide the training should partner to deliver it. Finally, he said there needs to be a focus on the cultural significance of the jobs, to ensure "people are aware of what these opportunities are and what they really mean."
When people think of trade jobs, Snyder said they often think of old, dirty, dangerous factories that no longer exist.
"You go in a manufacturing facility today, it's clean, it's neat and you're going up to a computer console in many cases having to run a multi-million-dollar piece of equipment," he said. "They're great fields. They pay well. There's a job."
Snyder touted the quality of life in the U.P. It is important, he said, that people want to live in the northern reaches of the state. However, jobs are still key.
"That's what it gets down to, in many cases," Snyder said. "If you don't have a job, it doesn't matter if you have great quality of life. You may be forced to be in a position where you have to go someplace else to work."
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is email@example.com.