Developing a skilled workforce is essential for attracting new businesses to this region, supporting the expansion of existing businesses, and is among the top issues that employers face in 2020 due in part to a talent shortage.

Tim Herman
Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce

There are two related challenges that contribute to the talent shortage in Genesee County: first, population decline; and second, unemployment is at record-low levels. Yes, on one hand low unemployment is great news but, on the other hand it presents a challenge to the labor market because the number of job openings continue to exceed the number of people who are officially classified as unemployed. Not only has the number of available jobs continued to increase, but is projected to grow. Therefore, it is imperative that we prepare youth and adults that are here in Genesee County to be college- and career-ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Recognizing this, the Flint & Genesee Chamber has a strategic focus on talent attraction, retention and development. For the purpose of this column, I want to talk about talent development.

We collaborate with our education and business partners to strengthen Flint & Genesee’s talent pipeline by offering an array of programs and services to residents that help to prepare the next generation of workers. You may be aware of some of our programs including YouthQuest, a high quality, engaging and enriching afterschool program; TeenQuest/Summer Youth Initiative, which provides pre-employment and soft skill training, as well as paid summer work experiences; Flint Promise, a “last dollar” scholarship that makes a college degree a reality, at no cost for students who live in the city of Flint and graduate from a Flint high school; and Career Edge, which offers pre-employment training to any resident over the age of 18, designed primarily for adults looking to enter or re-enter the workforce.

In addition, we want to know more about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed programs, the Michigan Opportunity Scholarship and Michigan Reconnect, which also look to help strengthen our workforce and make college accessible at community colleges for in-demand jobs throughout Michigan.

Competition for talent is growing – not just here in Genesee County, but across Michigan and the U.S. In addition to the programs mentioned above, the Chamber also offers business training options that help give employers and their employees an edge in today’s highly competitive market. We partner with subject matter experts to provide workshops and seminars that are fitting across all ages and levels of experience.

We know that employers are also looking to strengthen and/or develop new leadership within their organizations. The transformational Lead Now program is one of the ways the Chamber is helping to meet employers’ needs. Lead Now is a skills-based, leadership development program for emerging and existing leaders as well as motivated people who want to uplift their communities.

Bottom line: A skilled workforce is critical to economic vitality. A talent pipeline is needed to make sure businesses have the skilled workers they need today and into the future. Long-term this will help Flint & Genesee address issues related to the skills gap, make our region more attractive to new businesses and provide residents with opportunities to grow their skills and pursue the jobs and careers of their choice. When people are prepared and productive employees, they contribute to business growth, and also improve the quality of life for our county. Everyone wins when we invest in people.