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LOST WAGES: Unfilled Jobs Said to Cost State $49 Billion a Year

September 15, 2018       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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According to the State of Michigan's labor market projections, it is expected that 811,055 job postings will remain unfilled through 2024, which translates to over $49 billion in lost wages annually for Michigan's economy.

Thankfully, state and local education and business leaders are focusing on ramping up training programs.

A recent panel discussion, including several leaders from the Bay City area, zeroed in on the issue, agreeing that employers in virtually every industry in all corners of the state can't fill jobs because of the lack of a sufficiently skilled workforce.

We see a need for private, non-profit organizations to create innovative programs, like the proposed STEM Pre-Apprenticeship Center now being organized, to collaborate with schools and colleges to uplift a forgotten human resource: the 20 percent of high school students who have fallen through the cracks and whose employment prospects are limited by poverty and an inadequate education.

This is not a minor problem. Schools often shun these students as "dropouts" and "lost causes" and write them off. The numbers are astounding: Calculating the four-year non-graduate cohort, just for 18-22 year-olds, amounts to an estimated 4428 in Bay and Arenac counties alone.

Less than 2 percent of this group of "forgotten youth" are enrolled in present programs of the intermediate school district and Michigan Works, an employer organization. So, in our opinion schools and private community groups need a massive, concerted effort to make a dent in offering an opportunity to the non-graduates that 25 years ago were partially accommodated by adult education programs operated by virtually every K-12 school district.

Talent is equally distributed in society, but the opportunity is not. Unless every student at whatever stage in their learning ability is given a chance to succeed, we as a society, have failed to provide the equal educational opportunity promised in the Michigan Constitution. It is clear that state legislators have had their priorities elsewhere when it comes to our most pressing need -- to upgrade the workforce. The answer most often has been welfare or prison, both extremely costly and self-defeating remedies.

Projections by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives illustrate the severity of the problem. They show Michigan will experience a workforce gap of more than 811,000 openings through 2024 in several high-demand, high-wage careers in the information technology and computer science, healthcare, manufacturing, and other business and Professional Trades industries.

To help address the issue, the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan brought together a multi-talented panel of education, business, and economic and professional development leaders to explore the talent gap from a variety of angles.

In a lively discussion moderated by Eric Hultgren, MLive's Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, panelists offered insights into the causes of and potential solutions to the shortages in Michigan's talent pipeline.

The panelists:

Marcia Black-Watson, division administrator, Talent Investment Agency;

Roger Curtis, director, Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan;

Janene Erne, regional apprenticeship administrator, Workforce Intelligence Network;

State Sen. Ken Horn, District 32 (Saginaw County);

Deborah Kadish, superintendent, Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District;

Melinda Keway, director, Epic CNC Training Academy;

Mike Parker, president, Epic Machine;

Ginny Przygocki, dean of career education and learning partnerships, Delta College;

Nick Smith, journeyman plumber, Michigan State University Infrastructure Planning and Facilities;

Ryan Tarrant, president/CEO, Bay Area Chamber of Commerce;

Mitch Wheatcraft, assistant principal, Saginaw Intermediate School District.

According to government estimates, the U.S. economy will need 100,000 new IT workers every year for the next decade as baby boomers retire, and that growth means 3.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs will need to be filled by 2025, according to the Manufacturing Institute.

Sen. Horn commented: "When I first took over chairing the Economic Development Committee, we interviewed all of our local businesses in almost every industry. Talent was the No. 1 thing that was going to stifle growth in manufacturing, in IT. In all of this work that we're doing with autonomous vehicles, for example, and the purchase of the old bomber plant in Ypsilanti for autonomous vehicle testing, we need software people, we need IT people, we need people to test cars, we need engineers. Then you still need to melt steel, and then you still develop things. This gap is big, it's broad, and we need to fill it."


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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