Michigan Works is teaming up with Lake Michigan College to fill skill gapsmanufacturers in Berrien, Cass and VanBuren counties are experiencing.Corey Carolla, Michigan Works director of business and industry, said there are morethan 60 unfilled CNC positions in the area.Carolla said the position itself has changed over the years as technology progressed.Rather than just “pushing a button,” a worker now must “be able to tell the machine to dowhat you want the machine to do,” he said.
‘We’re done complaining’
The Frederick S. Upton Foundation Associate Board is helping Michigan Works bridgefill this skills gap with a $30,000 grant for the nonprofit’s “Get SET (skills, education andtraining): Manufacturing” program. The initiative is aimed at training people who haveworked previously or are currently working in manufacturing, but whose skills areoutdated.Carolla said many jobseekers have some — but not all — the skills to get them hired for these positions.“We ask them how to take someone from the 30 percent-ready that you wouldn’t hire, tothe 80 percent-ready that you might hire,” he said.LMC established a curriculum based on manufacturers’ feedback.Jackson said one problem in the tool and die industry is that instead of hiring newlytrained workers, companies “steal” from competitors, which drives up costs because theyare paying for experience.“We are kind of a little bit cannibalistic,” he said. “We steal each other’s help, and that’sa really difficult situation to be in.”Michigan Tool and Die — which is no longer hiring — pays as high as $30 per hour for the most experienced workers, while apprentices begin at about $12 per hour. The 35-year-old company employs 17.Carolla said the standard pay range in the industry is $14 to $18.“The big thing that we focus on is — the industry as a whole and me being a part of that before I came here — during the recession, we quit training people,” Carolla said. “Wehad to keep the people we had in place and working, and really quit focusing on big- picture future stuff.“The bottom fell out from under us and we focused on the people we had,” he said.