My Breakfast with Andy: A Discussion with a Michigan Workforce Leader

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It was a cold, but sunny, February morning when I entered Cadillac Place, the regional offices for the state of Michigan, located in Detroit’s New Center. I had been offered an opportunity to chat with Michigan’s Deputy Director of Labor and Economic Growth, Andy Levin, and I jumped at it.

As someone who has taken a worker-centric approach to getting Michigan back on its feet, I was very interested in hearing what a voice from the top had to say about where we are now, where we are headed, and what our state leadership is doing to promote re-employment and workforce development.

Andy met me with a warm smile, a firm handshake, and an attitude that got right down to business.

In our discussion, Andy noted that Michigan is leading the revolution in changing how workforce development is run across the entire United States. That should be no surprise, since we lead the country in unemployment, home foreclosures, and vacant commercial properties. Since 95 percent of workforce development funding comes from federal sources, it was critical that we as a state aggregate these funds into targeted workforce programs. I am happy to say that the state is succeeding in this consolidation.

I was also happy to hear that the deputy director recognizes that he has two customers to serve: The displaced worker and the employers (current and future) that will hire them. Andy noted that the key to success is in creating alignment between the displaced workers’ skills and abilities with the job opportunities that will continue to grow in current and emerging sectors within the state.

I asked Andy about these emerging sectors. I wondered when the state would begin to identify the specific jobs that would become available in these nebulous sectors. I wanted to see some meat on the bone, so to speak, as opposed to trends and forecasts about our job market. To his credit, Andy referred to the Green Jobs Report, published last year, that clearly identified specific industries within the Green sector:

  • Clean Transportation and Fuel
  • Renewable Energy
  • Green Recycling
  • Green Agriculture
  • Green Construction.

Check out the Green Jobs Initiative here.

OK, so what does all this mean to those who are still out of work? Well, the answer Andy gave might not be what you WANT to hear, but it needs to be heard.

The Deputy Director of Labor and Economic Growth noted that we are in unprecedented era of career transformation. There has not been this kind of flux in industry, the economy, and the job market in over 100 years. The only thing that will create the alignment between displaced workers and new jobs will be sustained workforce retraining. That means that unemployed workers will need to make a serious commitment to learning new skills in order to find their places back into a workforce that is quickly transforming itself into something completely different than what is was 12 months ago.

I asked Andy what advice he would give the displaced workers of Michigan, as he focuses on state and federal workforce strategies. Andy stated that:

“If you are out of work, don’t stare down off of the edge of the cliff or focus on all of the bad news you are hearing. You need to focus on yourself and the God-given talents that got you a job in the first place. Take these talents and move outside of your comfort zone. You need to be honest with yourself and assess what skills you have versus what skills you need to be successful. If you find a gap in your skill set, aggressively seek continuing education.”

Well folks, that is the word from the top. The state helps those who help themselves.

I think the state understands our predicament, but there is only so much they can do to help us. It is really in our hands. We must reinvent ourselves in the new workforce. My advice is to honestly assess your skill sets, fill in any gaps, and network aggressively for employment leads. Do your research and leverage your libraries, workforce offices, and community colleges and get on with the transformation of your career.

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