Employers solving labor shortages

Governor Snyder has made solving the so-called skilled trades shortages one of, if not, the top state economic growth priorities. He wants the education and training system to emphasize far more than today preparing students and adult job seekers for those jobs.

A far more effective lever to solve labor shortages in any occupation or industry is for companies to make the jobs more attractive to potential job seekers. Its how market economies balance supply and demand.

Probably the best Michigan example of companies taking responsibility for their own labor needs is Henry Ford establishing the Ford Trade School. (For more see this Hemmings Daily article.) Many believe it the most effective skilled trades effort in Michigan history.

The hopeful sign is some companies, rather than just complaining to government that they can’t find enough workers at the pay and work conditions they currently offer, are working at solving the problem. Two such Michigan companies have been featured in recent articles.

MiBiz wrote about SolarBOS Inc.:

But not all manufacturers have experienced the same challenges when it comes to sourcing and retaining talent in West Michigan. When California-based SolarBOS Inc. launched production in Walker earlier this year, it opted to pay its Michigan workers the same wages that it offered its workers in its home state, which traditionally has a higher wage structure than West Michigan, as MiBiz previously reported.

The manufacturer of power management systems for photovoltaic solar arrays and other electrical systems starts temporary assembly workers at $17.50 per hour, while assembly workers can earn close to $23 an hour as they move up within the company. That compares to a rate of $13 per hour suggested by local staffing agencies when the company first moved to the area.

“When you’re willing to pay the wage, you’d be surprised at how many people become available,” CEO John Hass told MiBiz at the time. “You get what you pay for in life.” 

The Detroit Free Press featured Con-way Freight:

What’s problematic, however, is that many of the hottest jobs are going unfilled because there are few candidates with the necessary skills to handle them. Even in positions that don’t require an advanced degree, employers sometimes have a difficult time finding qualified candidates.

For example, a nationwide shortage of truck drivers recently forced Ann Arbor Township-based shipping company Con-way Freight to launch its own driver school. The firm provides 12 weeks of training at no cost for prospective drivers, who spend half of that time earning compensation for dock work until they receive their certification.

Con-way expects to train and hire 50 Michigan-based truck drivers in 2015 — all of whom return to their homes at night, unlike long-haul drivers — and about 1,600 nationwide. The company gave a “significant” raise to its current drivers in June and plans to deliver another one in January, said Con-way Freight President Greg Lehmkuhl.

“More than anything else in the next few years, it’s a war for qualified and safe drivers,” Lehmkuhl said. “The whole industry is raising wages to attract people into the driving profession.”


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