Filling the talent gap
Apprenticeships are an economical and sustainable option for businesses looking to attract and retain talent.
Growing up, Derrek Schwab listened as everybody — even his wood-shop and metal-shop teachers — told him he needed to go to college.
So, that’s what he did. After graduating from high school in Standish, a blue-collar town about 30 minutes north of Bay City, Schwab enrolled in an athletic training program at Saginaw Valley State University. He graduated in 2010.
But life didn’t play out as people told him it would.
Schwab is a case study in the country’s $1.5 trillion student loan debt crisis. His story also helps illustrate the lack of knowledge youth and parents have regarding the variety of career paths available to them — a knowledge gap that has contributed to a mounting talent shortage.
Nearly half of U.S. employers are struggling to fill jobs, particularly Professional Trades career, despite more than 33 percent of adults older than 25 holding academic degrees, according to a 2017-18 report from ManpowerGroup. There are more than 6.7 million job openings nationwide.
“It’s starting to impact every business in every industry,” said Roger Curtis, director of the Department of Talent and Economic Development (Ted) of Michigan. “Every state is facing this challenge.”
Michigan’s talent gap became clear when the state was working to convince Amazon to open its second headquarters in Detroit earlier this year, Curtis said.
“We have a lot of great programs in place, but we need to do more,” he said, adding the No. 1 question companies looking to move to the state ask the Michigan Economic Development Corporation is not about incentives but about whether Michigan has the skilled talent it needs.
Key ingredient: Apprenticeships
Curtis said Michigan needs to do more than just prepare for those companies to move here; the state needs to help keep already established businesses thriving.
One way to help alleviate skilled-trades staffing challenges in particular is through training programs such as apprenticeships.