Senator Stabenow Continues Statewide Series of Workforce Discussions in Grand Rapids

Stabenow Meets with Local Business and Labor Leaders, Educators, Students and Parents at Kent Career Tech Center in Grand Rapids

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow continued her week-long series of workforce discussions across Michigan at the Kent Career Tech Center in Grand Rapids. The discussion focused on how to better fill the demand for skilled workers in Michigan and provide professional career and training opportunities for students who don’t choose a four-year college path after high school or workers who want to be retrained for new jobs. Stabenow met with local business and labor leaders, Grand Rapids Community College, Kent Intermediate School District, students and local parents.

Senator Stabenow frequently meets with business owners who express a critical need for more skilled workers, labor leaders who offer opportunities for training and apprenticeships for good paying jobs in the skilled trades, parents frustrated with the lack of opportunities for their children who are not college bound, and educators who are innovating to meet these needs. She is bringing these leaders together in communities across the state to discuss how we can partner to meet the needs of employers and provide job opportunities for all Michigan workers and students.

“I’ve visited over 110 small businesses in the past year and the number one issue I hear about is the need for more skilled workers,” said Senator Stabenow, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Senate Manufacturing Caucus. “Not every young person is interested in getting a four-year college degree. It’s important that they know there are great jobs in professional skilled trades and technical careers. To grow our economy for businesses and workers, we all need to work together to raise public awareness of these great job opportunities across Michigan.”

We appreciate Sen. Stabenow's continued support of community colleges, and the important role we play in shaping West Michigan’s skilled workforce,” said Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink. “At GRCC, one of our important roles is to serve our community and its workforce needs. Our collaborative relationships are critical to ensuring that our educational opportunities are accessible and relevant. Being responsive to the needs of our community will benefit all involved- our employer partners, the skilled workers we train and West Michigan as a whole. This work truly elevates our community.”

“As educators, we must make sure we are preparing our students for every opportunity after they graduate high school, and help them recognize every degree and credential they earn is a step toward a career, not an end unto itself,” said Ronald Caniff, Superintendent of Kent Intermediate School District. “We are excited to host Senator Stabenow for this important discussion to shine a light on high wage, high skill and high demand job opportunities that may not require four years of college.”

“I was able to tell Senator Stabenow about how we have job openings right now for workers with the right skills but we can’t fill the positions,” said Jon DeWys, Owner of DeWys Manufacturing. “I appreciate her commitment to helping businesses, manufacturers, and K-12 schools meet this need and bringing us together to raise awareness.” 

"West Michigan Building Trades is proud of our Apprenticeship programs,” said Hugh Coward, Western Michigan Field Representative for the Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council. “We are training the next generation of skilled tradesman every day in our earn-while-you-learn programs that provide great wages, health care, pensions, and no college debt. I thank Senator Stabenow for understanding and supporting our programs that fulfill the needs for future skilled tradesman and focusing on connecting students, parents and educators to the opportunities our programs bring to the table."

Senator Stabenow authored the New Skills for New Jobs Act of 2015 that builds on successful job training partnerships between our community colleges and local businesses to help close the skills gap and support businesses that are ready to hire. Stabenow plans to reintroduce this legislation in the fall following feedback from stakeholders during her workforce discussions.  

According to a study conducted by National Association of Manufacturers and Deloitte, by 2025, over 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled. Yet due to the skills gap, 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled. The study also revealed that while Americans consider manufacturing among one of the most important domestic industries for maintaining a strong national economy, they rank it low as a career choice for themselves. Only 37 percent of respondents in the study indicated they would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.