The Crumbling Detroit Workforce: Which Way is Up?


Are you unemployed yet? If not, you are probably counting yourself among the lucky. If you have not lost your job in the last 18 months, you may still be living in fear of being unemployed. The crumbling job market is all around us. To keep it real and in perspective, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics noted that, “Michigan again reported the highest jobless rate, 15.2 percent, in June. (The last state to have an unemployment rate of 15.0 percent or higher was West Virginia, in March 1984.)”

So, now that we have hit rock bottom, which way is up?

In an effort to stop the bleeding, the federal government has been pumping Recovery Act stimulus money into Michigan. Change is happening, but it is happening slowly.

The reason change is coming so slowly is simple: there are few if any jobs right now. That’s right, I said it. THERE ARE FEW JOBS RIGHT NOW. At least, there are no jobs like the ones we were all accustomed to having just a few months ago. Those are tough words to hear, but they need to be said. The simple truth is that the rate of job losses in Michigan and metro Detroit is so great, that no new industry or stimulus money could ever create enough jobs to fill the employment chasm that has been created over the past 18 months.

This hard reality does have an upside though. The upside is that now everyone has the opportunity to retrain and prepare for the emerging industries that are slowly building within the state. Of course, this is only an upside if you are willing to make the change.

The growth of new industry will be too slow to meet the immediate needs of Michigan’s economy, but it is growth just the same. This early economic growth will begin to make a bigger impact in late 2010 and 2011.

So, the way back up the economic scale is to prepare and get ready for the soon-to-be emerging job market. Job seekers can get ready by focusing on retraining and reengineering their professional skill sets. A large portion of the stimulus money that we have all been hearing about is going directly into workforce retraining. The gateways to retraining opportunities are through regional community colleges and state job agencies. The private sector also is getting involved, with Cisco ( announcing a major workforce development program in partnership with 128 colleges and universities.

So, if you are tired of floating in the black hole of online applications and classified ads, contact a community college, library, or workforce center near you. New programs are sprouting up every day. They are there to help you. Just remember, the way back up is to move forward — and that starts with learning something new.