Michigan governor touts manufacturing professionals

At Manufacturing in America, Rick Snyder pushes innovation and a redefinition of skilled trades.
By Bob Vavra, content manager, CFE Media March 22, 2017

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told the audience at the Manufacturing in America event in Detroit that the challenge of creating and growing jobs in his state and others was creating the right environment for job growth. Courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaWhile touting the job and technology growth in his state, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told the audience at the Manufacturing in America event in Detroit that the challenge of creating and growing jobs in his state and others was creating the right environment for job growth.

"As governor, I don’t create jobs; you do," Snyder told more than 250 manufacturing leaders at the annual event sponsored by Siemens and Electro-Matic on March 22. "What we can do is create the ecosystem."

Snyder said the state reversed economic decline over the last decade by reimaging the tax system, but also by building the talent around the high-tech manufacturing growth. "My top priority today is talent," Snyder said. "You’re helping me."

Snyder noted that Michigan created a job website (MITalent.org) a decade ago at a time when the state’s unemployment rate was 11%, and there were 80,000 open jobs on the site. Today the state’s unemployment rate is 5% and there are 100,000 job openings on the site. "We want to create an environment to fill those needs. Michigan leads the nation in creating manufacturing jobs."

But Snyder noted the changes already under way in manufacturing require a fresh look at manufacturing jobs. "We need to redefine the skilled trades. There are not many unskilled jobs left in manufacturing," Snyder said. "We said everyone should get a 4-year degree, and we stopped telling everyone there was an equally noble career in skilled trades-to become a professional. We need to promote that."

Snyder, a self-proclaimed nerd, said he is a big supporter of student programs such as FIRST Robotics (he called the state finals in Michigan "a rock concert for nerds") and wants to continue to change the discussions around what manufacturing is and how it creates long-term careers. "We need to look at how we present manufacturing," Snyder said.

"We also need to remind people that manufacturing is about making something better to improve people’s lives. It’s not just about making a product; it’s about innovating."

Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media, bvavra@cfemedia.com.