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Opinion: Time for businesses to reimagine approach to workforce

The Detroit News
Sep. 4, 2021
Peter Quigley

As Michigan residents pause to honor workers across our great state this Labor Day weekend, it’s a good time to ask whether we could be doing more to assist job seekers and employers statewide. I believe we can and that now is the time to act.

There are more than 10 million open jobs across America and not enough workers to fill them. That kind of workforce misalignment is stunning — a national record, in fact — and we’re certainly feeling the labor shortage here in Michigan as employers struggle to find workers with the skills they need.

Our labor market finds itself at a critical juncture. Work is evolving in this new age of smart machines and that means training and upskilling are increasingly important to the development of our human workforce.

We must do more to keep pace, and it’s time we reimagine how employers, education institutions, economic development leaders and state policymakers can come together to prepare Michigan residents for a future of work that has us working alongside smart machines.

One way for us to evolve is to start putting more value on short-term credentials. Nearly 50% of Michigan residents ages 25-64 have attained some level of education beyond high school. Of that group, 7.4% have earned a short-term credential (certificate or industry-recognized certification).

That means we have more than 380,000 people statewide with short-term credentials. Yet, many employers still have outdated rules in place requiring bachelor’s degrees for all positions when other high-quality credentials may suffice.

A recent Kelly survey found 70% of Americans believe companies should stop requiring bachelor’s degrees for positions that could be filled by workers with other high-quality certificates or credentials.

We agree and we’ve changed our internal recruiting processes at Kelly to value other credentials, experiences and skills to connect more people to work in ways that enrich their lives.

Another way for the labor market to evolve is to embrace apprenticeships for the benefits they bring to employers and workers. There is tremendous power in building partnerships between education institutions, employers and community stakeholders.

When we work together to create on-the-job training opportunities, we help workers acquire in-demand skills and we chart new pathways to sustainable and rewarding employment.

As we work to grow our state and metro Detroit talent pipelines, I’m encouraged by a new collaboration between the Detroit Regional Chamber, Lumina Foundation, Civic Labs, area community colleges and Kelly. We’re collaborating to move the needle, and it’s clear from a special session we held last week that we share a common goal: to make the region a more prosperous place for families and workers.

We appreciate partners such as Oakland Community College and Detroit Drives Degrees, and we encourage business leaders to join this effort by hiring candidates who are coming out of high-quality programs with short-term credentials.

We also encourage more community colleges, universities and workforce training providers to partner with the private sector to ensure the credentials offered lead to real economic growth. And we encourage the public and philanthropic sectors to increase their support so that our collaborative efforts can have a system-wide impact in service of others.

This Labor Day it’s time to reimagine what’s next for our labor market. Let’s build upon the regional efforts already underway and create an even larger movement to upskill Detroit.

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