Local business council working to get kids into job training programs

Posted at 7:31 PM, Oct 19, 2016

It's a growing problem nationwide, employers are having a difficult time filling positions. It's not because a lack of people but instead many don't have the necessary skills to complete the job.

Many Mid-Michigan managers, CEO's, and business owners gathered inside Michigan State University's University Club Wednesday to find ways in filling positions within their company.

It's all part of the T3 (teach, talent, thrive) business council.

"Right now we have hundreds of jobs that are open in our region because people don't have the skills," said Stan Kogut, Executive Director of T3. "We have people without jobs but we don't have them with the right skills and a lot of those skills are in the STEAM related fields."

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) positions are expected to grow significantly in the next few years.

T3 is working to find ways to better prepare youth and adults for today's workforce and it all comes down to one thing. Education.

"Our general population needs to be more educated, more talented, have more degrees, more extended training, and were talking about everything from surgeons to welders," said Chris Holmon, T3's co-chair and CEO of Michigan Business Network.

Many employers have now begun emphasizing exposure to STEAM positions, some as early as high school.

For Dean Transportation's CEO, it's a problem he can't ignore.

"It's very hard to hire folks at Dean Transportation and our industry in general," said Kellie Dean, CEO of Deans Transportation.

Kellie Dean was among many area CEO's at MSU'S University Club Wednesday who's struggling to find qualified employees.

"Our yellow school buses are advanced these days because there are a couple of computers on every bus," said Dean. "There is a lot of technology so there is a lot of training that goes into to being able to prepare someone to be a school bus driver or attendant."

Not only is there a need for drivers, there is also a need for the mechanics to work on buses.

"It takes someone with skills to be able to monitor all of the environmental protection issues, learn how to do maintenance, as well as all the computers on board that help navigate the system," said Dean.

Dean Transportation is already working on training its next employees by launching the Diesel Maintenance Technology Program for high school students at Life Tech Academy in Lansing.

The idea of the program is to give students a first hand look at exactly what the job entails.

"Our program consists of some classroom time along with some practical experience," said Patrick Dean, Business Development with Dean Transportation. "So observing a technician working on a vehicle and understand certain components of the engine."

The company hopes exposing teens to the workforce in high school will help provide encouragement to complete a higher education and one day do the job themselves.

"It's a great skill to be an auto or diesel mechanic and we want to support them in their career, hopefully they come back to Dean as a valuable member of our team," said Patrick.

Getting the open positions available filled is not going to happen overnight. T3 predict's it could be another three to four years to turn the trend around.