Growth in manufacturing changing school focus

Manufacturers in the 10 county northwest Michigan region say they cannot find enough skilled workers.

Manufacturers in the 10 county northwest Michigan region say they cannot find enough skilled workers. The search for workers was a topic of conversation Tuesday at the Economic Breakfast Outlook. It focused on the growth of manufacturing in Michigan and the need for people to fill those jobs.

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is part of Northwestern Michigan College. It's where the next generation of skilled workers is training. The problem is attracting students to the manufacturing and keeping the high tech training equipment up-to-date.

The cost of equipment is very expensive, so... we now really need to partner with the manufacturers to help gain their support, said Richard Wolin, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center Director.

Wolin has been in contact with manufacturers to get a pulse of the industry. The need for skilled workers is calling for new and reinvented programs.

The comment that they made last time we were out there (at a manufacturer) was they would put on a second shift, but they wouldn't know where to find the workforce to do it. They felt comfortable that they have enough orders, or could get enough orders that they could actually add a shift.

According to Northwest Michigan Works! there were 415 manufacturing job postings in 2011, 629 in 2012 and 809 postings in 2013. Only 315 manufacturing jobs were filled in 2012 and 476 in 2013.

The resurgence has come back faster than I think any of us thought. So that's really put us educators in a position to have us scramble and figure out| how are we going to redesign what we do so it meets that need and we can respond quickly.

The assistant superintendent at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District said they're also trying to attract students to the manufacturing field. They are working with NMC to come up with a long-term plan.

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