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Monday, April 2, 2012

Engineering Jobs Return to Michigan

Here is an interesting article about engineering jobs returning to Michigan.  This is a clear sign that the economy is improving.

The Article is by Katherine Yung and John Gallagher

Detroit Free Press Business Writers
Participants Gerald Haug, from left, and David Brown, along with recruiter Shawn Rule of Thomson Reuters came out for a speed interview event at SPARK East Business Incubator in Ypsilanti in order to build relationships with potential employers and workers.
Recruiter Shawn Rule, right, of Thomson Reuters meets potential employees during a Shifting Code event in Ypsilanti. Shifting Code, a software training program, is one of several actions state officials and other organizations are taking to address the scarcity of technical talent. / March photos by JARRAD HENDERSON/Detroit Free Pres
Rob Henderson, left, Josh Matz and Ken Olson mingle during the Shifting Code event. The first of Shifting Code's 12-week courses started in February, and plans call for nine additional courses this year.
At an Engineering Society of Detroit job fair in Novi last month, open jobs outnumbered job seekers nearly 6-1.
Fifty-one companies, from Bosch to Hyundai to DTE Energy, looked to fill almost 3,500 positions. For the first time in a long time, engineers like Nancy Miron no longer were scared. The 54-year-old left Michigan during the recession for a job in Kentucky, only to be laid off there. She still owns a home in Royal Oak.
"The market is better than it was several years ago," she said. "I'm not worried."
Even so, a shortage of highly skilled workers is threatening to stall newfound growth for business and the state economy, even as millions across the country are looking for work.
Experts can't pin down exactly how many jobs go unfilled because of the skills mismatch, but they say it's part of the reason unemployment rates -- although inching down -- remain stubbornly high.
The state's online jobs bank is averaging about 76,000 available positions every month, even though there were 409,000 unemployed Michiganders in February.

Experts say the Great Recession prompted many professionals to switch careers or retire early. Hundreds of thousands from all skill levels also left the state in search of available jobs.
Talent shortage a top challenge for companies

Attracting professionals like Miron back to Michigan is one of the strategies companies and the state now pursue to fill open positions. The state has launched special programs, such as talent swat teams, to woo skilled labor back and to retrain others.

Effort to find skilled workers surges in Michigan

From recruitment swat teams to boot camps and other specialized training programs, the push to help Michigan employers find skilled workers in short supply is taking on new urgency for the state and private sector as the economy picks up steam.
The huge demand for technical professionals and shortage of available talent isn't limited to automotive engineers. DTE Energy has openings for 100 engineers to work in power distribution, nuclear and fossil-fuel power plants, natural gas, environmental and information technology. And many technology companies, such as Livonia-based WorkForce Software, have jobs for software engineers and developers that go unfilled for months.
"The biggest problem I have is finding talent," said Ken Olson, WorkForce's vice president of software development. The company, which develops software for work force management, has 45 open positions. The company can't build its products fast enough to meet demand, Olson said.

Threat to growth

The shortage of necessary skilled professionals across multiple industries is threatening a resurgent growth for some Michigan companies and the larger state economy.
"It definitely slows down the economy," said Charles Ballard, an economics professor at Michigan State University. "There are people who could be working, but who don't have the skills to fit into the available jobs."
Companies including Ricardo -- an auto supplier with a technical center in VanBuren Township and is trying to fill 20 positions -- have held in-house job fairs and advertised on radio stations and billboards. Ricardo has encouraged its employees to pass along the names of promising job candidates.
"You can't find these people overnight," said Lisa Schyck, one of Ricardo's human resources recruiters. "You have to go out and get them."
It's unknown how many total jobs in Michigan or the region are going begging because of a lack of available skilled professionals. In manufacturing alone, U.S. employers have not been able to fill 600,000 skilled positions, according to a late summer survey of the manufacturing industry from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.
The situation is putting upward pressure on salaries for many technical workers. For engineers, "the pay levels are beginning to increase across the board in all states, including Michigan," said Todd Soulier, talent acquisition manager for EASi, a Detroit-based engineering staffing firm.
Taking action
In Michigan, the scarcity of many kinds of technical talent has become so acute that state officials and several organizations and companies are taking action to address the problem.
Some of the key efforts are:
• Swat teams: The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has formed mini talent swat teams for five areas: manufacturing; health care; alternative energy and utilities; information technology and media, and agriculture.
The teams assist businesses that are struggling to find skilled professionals.
"We've been seeing a number of employers raising the 'help me' flag," said Amy Cell, the MEDC's senior vice president of talent enhancement.
She and other experts point to a number of factors for why the skills mismatch is so prevalent today.
For starters, many engineers and other professionals either retired or switched careers during the recession, while hundreds of thousands of others left the state for opportunities elsewhere.
Michigan also has a large pool of workers whose technology skills need to be updated because they've been out of the work force for lengthy periods of time. On top of all this, the pipeline of freshly minted engineering and computer science graduates is shrinking as interest in the sciences has waned.
• Shifting Code: It's a new software training program the state is backing that is designed to quickly teach prospective workers the software development and other technology skills employers need.
The first of these 12-week courses started in February at Ann Arbor SPARK's Ypsilanti business incubator with 26 participants selected from 740 applicants. Plans call for nine additional courses to be held this year.
"Sometimes it's just a tweak in a skill level that can make a difference in a job seeker landing an opportunity," said Donna Doleman, SPARK's vice president of talent, communications and marketing.
• Made in Michigan Pipeline: The shortage of electrical, mechanical and other engineers prompted the Engineering Society of Detroit to launch this new recruitment effort. The society believes manufacturing is crucial for attracting engineers to the state, so it plans to team up with other groups to find ways to grow this sector. Other efforts to increase the number of engineers also are in the works.
"We want to bring our engineers back to Michigan," said Christopher Webb, director of the ESD Institute.
• Global Talent Retention Initiative of Southeast Michigan: Last September saw the launch of this new worker recruitment effort. Backed by seven universities, GTRI provides international students at Michigan schools with the resources they need to stay in the state after graduation, from connections to local employers to assistance with résumés.
The group also is holding educational seminars for employers to help them understand immigration, tax and other issues involved in hiring foreign students.
"We want to make Michigan a desirable place for international students," said Athena Trentin, GTRI's director.
Contact Katherine Yung: 313-222-8763 or kyung@freepress.com
More Details: Help for workers and employers
A shortage of engineers and other highly skilled professionals prompted Michigan and several organizations to launch efforts to fill open jobs. Here are some resources for employers and workers.
Shifting Code is a program for worker retraining in software development and technology skills. E-mail questions to shiftingcode @michigan .org.
Global Talent Retention Initiative of Southeast Michigan helps foreign-born graduates from Michigan schools stay after graduation and fill jobs. Go to www .MiGTRI .org .
Michigan Talent Bank: www.michworks.org /mtb/user/MTB_EMPL .EntryMainPage
Automation Alley: www.automationalley.com
Engineering Society of Detroit: www.esd.org
Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s customer contact center: 888-522-0103

Rogers City is a great location for an engineering firm to establish a main headquarters or a branch office.  We are on the information superhighway with fiber in place, low property costs and low taxes, a talented workforce, and a terrific location on Lake Huron.  You will be able to see Lake Huron from your office in the downtown.  Your corporate cruiser is two minutes from your office, docked and waiting to launch from the Rogers City Marina.  The airport is less than five minutes away.  Contact Mark Slown for more information or a tour: mslown@rogerscity.com.

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