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Michigan aims to improve skill set of workers — Calley

July 31, 2012
By JIM ANDERSON - News Editor , The Daily News

IRON MOUNTAIN - Strengthening the skills of Michigan's work force is a top goal of the Snyder administration as it works to accelerate economic recovery, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Monday during a visit to Menominee, Dickinson and Iron counties.

Calley said there are 80,000 job openings in Michigan, but many applicants lack the skills needed to fill them. Wiping out that shortfall would cut the state's unemployment rate (currently 8.6 percent) by more than two percentage points, he said.

Calley said he's heard repeatedly from Michigan employers that jobs are available for the right candidates. "It's striking how similar the story is," he said.

A centerpiece in retaining and attracting desirable jobs is the state's STEM partnership, which seeks to develop a workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM, a public-private initiative that includes the Michigan Department of Education, is an effort to "change the culture" of the educational system to better match students with the marketplace, Calley said.

Another tool is the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s "Pure Michigan Talent Connect," which invites input from job seekers and employers across the state. Talent Connect features a career investment calculator to help students (or workers entering a new profession) judge the value of a course of study.

In higher education, Calley said, the administration is looking for ways to reward institutions that successfully train students in STEM professions and health care. Meanwhile, at the K-12 level, a more seamless transition to advanced schooling will be emphasized, along with better opportunities and choices for vocational training.

Calley's stops on Monday included Nu-Vu Food Service Systems, a commercial oven manufacturing company in Menominee; the Grede LLC foundry in Kingsford; M.J. Electric Inc. in Iron Mountain; Lester Detterbeck Enterprises, a manufacturer of cutting tools in Iron River; and Global Response North, a call center in Iron River.

In an interview with The Daily News, Calley said he's optimistic that legislation to eliminate parts of the personal property tax will reach Gov. Rick Snyder's desk.

The issue is contentious, because many local governments and school districts want guarantees that any lost revenues be replaced.

As the House takes up Senate-passed legislation, Calley said, there should be "a higher level of assurances" for local governments and schools. "We need to make sure that we do right by them," he said.

The Senate bills would give tax relief to businesses with equipment worth less than $40,000 starting in 2013 while phasing out the tax for industrial companies between 2016 and 2021.

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