Where there is talent, there is opportunity

Steve Arwood and Stephanie Comai

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Northern Michigan partnership fosters training in skilled trades

Michigan has made tremendous progress reinventing its economy since the end of 2010, but there is more to do if we want to build upon this success for generations to come.


We need to make sure that our state can remain competitive, and continue to be a place where businesses want to expand or locate, creating more and better jobs for residents.

We know that businesses locate where there is talent, and Gov. Rick Snyder is focused on building a workforce that has in-demand skills. Our goal is to lead the nation in these efforts, and Michigan institutions of higher education, such as Northwestern Michigan College, have been great partners. 

Working with the Legislature, Gov. Snyder awarded $50 million through the Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program to 18 colleges across Michigan to help purchase state-of-the-art equipment for career-technical education programs. This is a serious investment in Michigan’s future, one of the largest of its kind in the nation.

We applaud Northwestern Michigan College and President Timothy Nelson for embracing this opportunity and showing great leadership. The college was awarded about $2.1 million in state funds and is investing about $700,000 of its own money to build upon six programs training students for careers in growing fields.


The aviation program, for example, is one of the top 15 in the country and is helping students explore the emerging field of unmanned aerial vehicles – “drones.” The program provides partnerships with international colleges and universities and has partnerships with the airlines and industry partners.

And the engineering technology program is preparing graduates for careers in fields such as photonics, electronics, robotics, automation technology and unmanned systems platforms – some of the most difficult jobs to fill in the nation.

NMC is making similarly important investments in marine technology, welding technology, computer technology and allied health-nursing through CCSTEP.

We’ve required participating colleges to work with local businesses and school districts to best understand what skills are needed and how these communities can work in partnership to prepare students.

We’re also making sure that students are aware of the opportunities available to them through the skilled trades so they have more options to consider as the plot their academic careers. Our top-notch community colleges are accessible to young people right out of high school and adults either returning to the workforce or looking for new skills and new careers.


Michigan also supports FIRST Robotics, where experts in science, technology, engineering and technology fields work with high school students to design robots for competitions, introducing the students to in-demand skills in exciting ways, inspiring the next generation.

The state is also working directly with companies to help grow talent. The Skilled Trades Training Fund provides competitive awards to businesses to provide specialized training. In Northwest Michigan, this program has helped 46 companies and 2,170 people through a $2.1 million state investment over three years.

We know these programs are among the reasons we’ve been successful.

Since the end of 2010, Michigan businesses have created more than 450,000 jobs. Our unemployment rate, once dead last in the country, has dropped from 11.2 percent to 4.8 percent, below the national average.

That’s important. In the coming weeks thousands of students will be graduating from state colleges. For too many years, parents watched as their children left Michigan for jobs.

Our efforts are focused on creating those opportunities here, not just for the class of 2016, but for graduates long into the future.

Steve Arwood is the director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development, and Stephanie Comai is the director of the Michigan Talent Investment Agency.  

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