What you should do before, during and after the upcoming professional job fair in Macomb County

Are you looking for your next career opportunity? If you answered yes and you work in the engineering, design, IT/cybersecurity, procurement and project management fields, you might just be in luck – as Macomb County recently announced a professional job fair for individuals working in these areas. The event will take place on Friday, April 12 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Sterling Banquet and Conference Center (34911 Van Dyke, Sterling Heights). It will feature more than 25 companies and organizations that are actively hiring, including BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, MB Aerospace, R&E Automated Systems and Waltonen Engineering. Interested individuals are asked to register for the free event at www.macombgov.org and those that do so on or before April 8 will receive early bird admittance at 11 a.m.

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So – are you planning to attend? If you are, we found some tips on Monster.com that might help you land that new job:

Before the hiring event

  1. Develop a Strong Resume: Highlight your skills and accomplishments. Your resume should be error-free, concise and graphically pleasing. Don’t forget to make several copies, since you’ll probably visit with more than one employer.
  2. Get or Make Business Cards: You can buy blank business cards at stores like Office Depot, and then use a computer and laser printer to create some personalized cards. List your name, contact information, and perhaps the career you’d like to pursue or your key skills.
  3. Study the Organizations Attending the Fair: Nothing impresses an employer less than a prospective candidate asking, “So what do you guys do?” Instead, be one of the few attendees who know something about each of the companies. The more informed you are, the more likely you will be positively remembered.
  4. Develop a 30-Second Commercial: “Tell me a little about yourself.” You’re likely to get that invitation from many of the employers at the fair. So spend a little time beforehand figuring out your response. Think of your reply as a 30-second, self-promotional commercial you’ll deliver to each employer who asks.

During the hiring event

  1. Introduce Yourself and Shake Hands: In many ways, a career fair is a test of your social skills. While employers are almost always friendly and outgoing, they’ll expect the same of you. If you haven’t done much ice breaking before, practice in advance with a career counselor or friend.
  2. Dress Appropriately: In most cases, you’ll want to dress professionally to attend a career fair. Sometimes business casual is fine, but don’t go too casual. When in doubt, overdress.
  3. Ask Intelligent Questions: If you’ve studied up on the organizations, you’ll probably have some questions you’d like to ask. Not only will you get some answers, but you’ll also show yourself to be someone who does his research.
  4. Focus on What You Can Offer: You’ll be a refreshing change to most company representatives if you tell them what you can do for them and their organizations instead of asking what they can do for you.
  5. Leave Your Resume and Card with Each Representative: Then be sure to grab each representative’s card.

After the hiring event

  1. Take Notes: After the fair concludes, jot down notes about conversations you had with company representatives. If you wait too long, the conversations will start running together in your head, and you’ll forget what you said to whom.
  2. Follow Up on Promises: If, for example, a company representative expressed interest in looking at your Web site, make sure to email the URL like you said you would.
  3. Send Thank-You Notes: Write or email each of the people you met and thank them for their time. Reiterate your interest in the company and your relevant skills and experience. Most job seekers fail to take this simple step, often losing out in the end to those who did express their thanks.

If you have any questions about the upcoming hiring event in Macomb County, which is being hosted by Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, the Macomb County Chamber and Michigan Works!, contact Janice Loftis at jloftis@macomb-stclairworks.org or at 586-738-9034. Good luck!

**The above tips were pulled from an article on Monster.com here: https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/learn-to-work-a-career-fair.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

How SME Prime and Center Line High School are working to address the skills gap in manufacturing

There’s a growing crisis within American industry. There aren’t enough prepared, qualified candidates available to fill crucial advanced manufacturing roles. Nearly 3.5 million jobs will be available over the next decade in manufacturing — but 2 million will remain unfilled due to the lack of skilled talent.

smeef.rgb.notaglineThe SME Education Foundation is working to address this growing talent gap with a unique solution: the SME PRIME® (Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education) schools initiative. SME PRIME focuses on building and developing a workforce talent pipeline by bringing together local industry, educators and communities.

On February 21, representatives from the SME Education Foundation, Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel, Center Line Public Schools Superintendent Eve Kaltz and others will discuss plans to bring the SME PRIME schools initiative to Center Line High School in Macomb County.

The Foundation’s mission focuses on inspiring, preparing and supporting young people in their pursuit of advanced manufacturing career pathways. Through SME PRIME, the Foundation establishes manufacturing education centers of excellence in high schools across the country working with the local manufacturing community to help with funding, mentoring and developing young people in their pursuit of career opportunity.

“We’re pleased with the progress and direction of our partnership. It’s a great opportunity to work with talented students – helping to guide them and expand their opportunities help them realize their potential.”

Mark White, President, Shape Corp.

Nationwide, the Foundation has built 46 SME PRIME schools in 22 states, with 8 schools in the state of Michigan. To date, SME PRIME has impacted over 50,000 students with 84 percent of students graduating from PRIME schools pursuing careers in manufacturing. Furthermore, 40 percent of those students entered the workforce directly, filling critical jobs, and the other 60 percent pursued higher education within STEM degree programs focused on manufacturing.

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To RSVP for the SME PRIME information session at Center Line High School on Thursday, February 21 or to learn how to get involved, please contact Sandy Wilton at swilton@sme.org or 313-316-3356.

Joshua Grossman is senior marketing specialist with SME, an association of professionals, educators and students committed to promoting and supporting the manufacturing industry.

Macomb County focused on “Future Tech, Future Talent” during Auto Show

In its most recent Future of Jobs Report (2018), the World Economic Forum forecasts dramatic changes for workplaces around the globe driven by automation and machines. wefBut this five year economic outlook is more positive than one would assume. From new job creation to retraining opportunities, the report features several interesting predictions, including:

  1. There is a net positive outlook for jobs – amid job disruption
    While current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms, 133 million new job roles may emerge at the same time. Those roles are either related to technology (data analysts, software and applications developers and e-commerce and social media specialists) or emphasize human traits (customer service workers, sales and marketing professionals, training and development, people and culture, and organizational development specialists).
  2. New tasks at work are driving demand for new skills
    By 2022, the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly. Skills growing in importance include analytical thinking and active learning as well as technology design. “Human” skills will also increase in value, including: creativity, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation, attention to detail, resilience, flexibility, complex problem-solving, emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence and service orientation.
  3. We will all need to become lifelong learners
    As workplaces change, so must workers. On average, employees will need 101 days of retraining and upskilling in the period up to 2022. This will require businesses to build a comprehensive strategy for workforce planning, training and education.

These points are driving a future-focused mindset here in Macomb County, where business, government and education leaders are collaborating on several new talent and technology initiatives. And while attending the North American International Auto Show, these leaders will take time to discuss a few of the efforts.

autonomous-1.1“We couldn’t think of a better time or place to highlight these initiatives than the North American International Auto Show,” said John Paul Rea, director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED). “This show is a testament to our region’s ingenuity and ability to grow and innovate. So we’re proud to showcase our county’s future-focused mindset here.”

The first major initiative they will highlight is a Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center, a new resource aimed at increasing awareness and opportunity within the robotics environment. The center was submitted by MCPED as a proposal to the Defense Industry Growth Area Grants program through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in the summer of 2018. It was recently awarded funding and will launch at the Velocity Collaboration Center later this year. Once open, the center’s mission will be partnering with businesses, educational organizations, nonprofits and startups to offer tools, programs, expert assistance and open access to an independent, digital- and electronic-based environment for creative people. It will be a facility and ecosystem which offers co-sharing and individual workspaces, computers, software and related technologies. It will also feature a tooling and fabrication shop, engineering and computer science assistance, business development assistance and mentors from leading automotive, defense, manufacturing and technology firms, all in an open, collaborative environment.

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“New technologies are having a massive effect on just about every aspect of our lives,” said County Executive Mark A. Hackel. “Whether it’s the economy, infrastructure or education, the world is changing and we need to be ready for that. This is why Macomb County is investing in new programs and initiatives aimed at tech and talent. We want to make sure that our communities and residents are prepared for the future in ways that will ensure our success.”

google-fueling talent pipeline-1.1Other major investments to discuss include Macomb County’s recently launched “Fueling the Talent Pipeline” effort – a service platform that will allow employers and educators to connect, share resources and help students become aware of future career opportunities – and its connected roadways strategy. The strategy, which involves the creation of a smart infrastructure network that can communicate with vehicles, bikes, buses and pedestrians, will position Macomb County as a leader in improving the overall mobility experience.

For more information on the above initiatives, visit www.macombbusiness.com.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Exclusive Auto Show Experiences Available Through Macomb County

The North American International Auto Show is right around the corner, as are premier opportunities to connect and share insights with professionals and companies from around the world.naiasEach year more than 2,200 companies in the automotive sector come together at NAIAS to showcase cutting-edge products, technologies and services. With nearly 40,000 global professionals and analysts at the event, it’s also a great place for networking, especially during Industry Preview Days on January 16 and 17.

dsc_5109Premium access to this portion of NAIAS is now available. For instance, the VIP Industry Preview Package provides businesses with an exclusive way to experience the show, entertain clients and network with industry professionals. Each ticket package includes:

  • A pass for the private Atwater Networking Lounge
  • Hospitality features including coat check, light lunch and refreshments
  • A commemorative NAIAS program
  • Complimentary entry to a designated work area
  • Early access to the show floor on January 16

The premier package is available for $110. Groups purchasing 20 or more tickets will receive additional benefits, including two bonus credentials for the Atwater Networking Lounge. To purchase exclusive tickets using our special promo code (TFG19), click here.

As an additional perk for current and prospective Macomb County clients, we will host a hospitality suite on Wednesday, January 16 from 2-5 p.m. in Room #338. Join us and take advantage of a comfortable place to sit, light refreshments and access to electrical outlets. Our business development staff will be on hand to talk about how the county is supporting the automotive sector with its wide variety of resources, including a skilled and talent workforce, optimal facility locations, connected roadways and industry investments.

NAIAS is an important event for Macomb County – the third most populated county in the state. We look forward to being a part of the annual expo and showcasing the “Future Tech, Future Talent” found just north of the Motor City.

Amy Lafnear is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Local program to address employment gaps in advanced manufacturing industry

Macomb County and its neighboring regions have a rich history in both defense and automotive manufacturing.  But as new automation and robotics technology disrupt those sectors, the area’s economy has shifted from having a traditional blue collar workforce to a “new collar” workforce.  This shift in skillsets – from traditional manufacturing to high tech careers – has created a skills gap that further widens as the workforce chooses other career options outside of STEAM. If not addressed, this gap will create problems in production capabilities and all told, the effect on our economic well-being will be devastating.

pexels-photo-1216589To help fill this burgeoning skills gap, Macomb Community College is offering three advanced manufacturing programs in early 2019. The programs – controls technician, maintenance technician and robot technician – are designed to give participating students the training needed to enter the manufacturing industry with no previous experience necessary.

All three programs are noncredit and full time, featuring a combination of classroom education and hands-on experience. The programs run between three and four months long, depending on the focus. Those that successfully complete their program earn a certificate of completion from Macomb, an OSHA 10 card demonstrating the student meets certain OSHA requirements and certification from FANUC, a global supplier of factory automation.  Those that take the controls technician program will also have the opportunity to take the Siemens Mechatronics System Certification Program Level 1 exam. More than 300 employers have hired Macomb students who have successfully completed these programs.

An information session for the maintenance technician and robot technician programs will be held on Jan. 17 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Macomb Community College’s M-TEC (7900 Tank Avenue in Warren).  Those interested in the controls technician program should contact 586.498.4100 in advance of the information session.

The controls technician program will begin Jan. 28, maintenance technician on Feb. 18 and robot technician on March 11. Those who are unemployed may qualify for funding to assist with a portion or all of the cost of tuition. For more information and to register for the information session, go to Macomb.edu/infosession. For additional information on tuition assistance, call 586.498.4100 or email workforcedev@macomb.edu.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

L’Anse Creuse-Pankow receives $1,000 from 2018 MFG Day video contest

Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel yesterday announced students from the L’Anse Creuse Frederick V. Pankow Center as the winners of the Manufacturing (MFG) Day 2018 Student Video Challenge. The contest, which coincided with the October 5 celebration of MFG Day in Macomb County, required participants to create a three minute video around the theme “Why should manufacturers get involved in Manufacturing Day?” It also asked for videos to highlight a MFG Day host site company, careers within that company and the overall student experience during the event.

MFG Day Video Challenge winners“We asked students to help us create a tool that would promote Manufacturing Day in the future,” said County Executive Hackel. “And the teams that submitted videos did an incredible job. It is clear that they are all talented individuals with bright futures ahead.”

Six videos were submitted by student teams for consideration in the MFG Day Video Challenge. All were reviewed by a panel of judges with experience in the film and video profession. The winner, a video produced by students from the L’Anse Creuse Frederick V. Pankow Center, received high marks for camera techniques, lighting, content, graphics and titles, editing and sound. The team featured Fori Automation as their video’s central focus and included interviews with company leaders and MFG Day attendees. It can be viewed in its entirety here.

“We were so impressed with the L’Anse Creuse Frederick V. Pankow Center team,” said Tom Nahas, a contest judge and owner of Mad Habit Creative. “These students took the competition directive and made it their own by adding creative elements and distinct production abilities to their final video. The end result was a professional and unique marketing tool that will support the county in its mission to make next year’s Manufacturing Day the biggest one yet.”

As the winner of the MFG Day challenge, the Pankow Center team received the contest’s grand prize – $1,000 awarded to their school and $50 in prepaid credit cards for each student participant. Winning students include:

  • Jacob Ashba
  • Jack Braithwaite
  • Lauren Bayless
  • Angel Delich

The team was mentored by Michael Kaufman, an instructor with the Pankow Center’s television and broadcast media CTE course offering. During the check presentation to the team, Kaufman noted that the prize money will be used for student experiences like field trips and student scholarships.

To view all the MFG Day Student Video Challenge entries, visit https://www.manufacturemyfuture.com/video-contest. (Pictured above from left to right: Michael Kaufman, Angel Delich, Jacob Ashba, Jack Braithwaite, Lauren Bayless and County Executive Mark A. Hackel).

About MFG Day in Macomb County: Manufacturing Day is a national campaign designed to create awareness about the economic importance of the industry and the interesting and well-paying jobs it provides. Since 2014, more than 10,000 students have participated in Macomb County’s Manufacturing Day through the support of an active planning committee and the generosity of host sites and sponsors. In 2018 alone, 82 tours were given by 72 host companies to 2,400 students from 28 MISD schools. It was the largest ever Manufacturing Day in Macomb County. For more information, visit http://business.macombgov.org/Business-Events-ManufacturingDay.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Upcoming event aims to expose young people to careers in technology and manufacturing

Macomb County has long been a manufacturing powerhouse. For close to a century, our region has designed and produced countless products, parts and materials for the auto industry and military – which makes continuing the steady flow of talent into our workforce a top issue for local leaders.

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One major component of producing this next generation workforce involves exposing young people to the variety of careers and opportunities available in the manufacturing and technology sectors. And the upcoming Careers in Manufacturing Expo aims to do just that. The free career event will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Macomb Community College South Campus. It will feature a light dinner, an opportunity to interact with area employers and a panel discussion about educational pathways that lead to career success. The panel will include insight from interns all the way to CEOs, all of whom can provide perspective to the public.

“It’s really all about developing career awareness and technology awareness, particularly within the automotive field,” said Joe Petrosky, the dean of the Engineering and Advanced Technology at Macomb Community College. “That evening event has local employers that come in. Students and parents and families can interact with those employers, […] learn more about apprenticeships, learn more about internships (and) the programs available at the college.”

Companies participating in the event include:

  • Ford Motor Company
  • Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles
  • General Motors
  • Magna International (manufacturing)
  • Continental AG (manufacturing)
  • Comau (automation)
  • Siemens (automation)
  • American Axle (auto)
  • Kuka (automation)

All interested parents and students are welcome to attend the expo, where one lucky student attendee will be awarded the special door prize – a professional grade drone!

Again, the event is free, but registration is required here.


Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Manufacturing Day gives students behind-the-scenes access to local plants and factories

What do you think of when you imagine a manufacturing facility? Perhaps you picture a dirty, overcrowded setting with dim lighting and old machines. Alongside that you see workers doing dull, repetitive jobs. Well, what if I told you that’s not the case at all? That those ideas are manufacturing myths and scenes from the past? Would you believe me?

Because the reality is this: Most of today’s advanced manufacturers have bright, clean buildings. They have workers tasked with highly-skilled, interesting jobs. They are growing and making products essential to our everyday lives. All told, manufacturing is on the rise and companies are ready and willing to hire the next generation of talent.

But how do you dispel myths and long-held ideas while also inspiring this talent pool? One answer is the national celebration of Manufacturing Day, also known as MFG Day, an event that features high school students visiting area advanced manufacturing facilities to see the industry in action and meet people who make things. By giving young people this behind-the-scenes access, you can open their eyes to potential careers and opportunities that they may not have previously considered.

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Here in Macomb County, we’ve held a Manufacturing Day celebration for the last five years. Our most recent was this past Friday, October 5. In all, an estimated 2,400 students from 28 MISD schools attended 82 tours given by 72 host companies – our largest event yet. During individually organized visits, students got to experience everything from the design and production of anatomically correct prosthetic solutions to the creation of vehicles. For instance, a group of students from Adlai Stevenson and Warren Career Prep Center got inside access to FCA Automobile when they toured the U.S. Warren Truck Assembly Plant.

The day started with a welcome and introduction from FCA, Macomb County and MISD leadership. A question and answer session led by Plant Manager Andy Ragalyi followed. During this activity, students learned fun facts like what the most popular Ram color is (A: white) and how many trucks are produced at the plant everyday (A: 1023). They were then provided with safety equipment and led on to the plant floor, where they were carted to sections of the facility to see the line in action. Trucks in various stages of assembly were the main attraction. Some areas had trucks with only the body complete, others featured trucks in the testing stage. But the feature consistent throughout was the constant movement of FCA employees in and around the vehicles as they slowly moved down the line. These workers expertly attached parts, worked with robots and assisted with quality assurance – demonstrating how and why a complete Ram comes off the line at Warren Trucking every 53 seconds.

The hands-on portion of the tour took place in an area of the plant dedicated to work hardening, a term used for employee training. Here students participated in activities that would help them prepare for working on the line. For instance, in an area designated dexterity, students competed in a timed race to move wooden pegs from one end of a board to another. The exercise was both fun and educational in that it allowed students to see how workers train to use both of their hands on the plant floor.

The day wrapped with a presentation on the types of careers available at FCA, a helpful guide for students who were interested in pursuing a job in manufacturing after graduation. Which brings us back to the ultimate goal of Manufacturing Day – exposing young people to the interesting and well-paying careers that are currently available in the field. Through tours at FCA and at the 71 other host site companies, we accomplish that. And as previously mentioned, this behind-the-scenes access helps this generation understand that the manufacturing jobs of the past are not the manufacturing jobs of the present. There’s opportunity out there, we just have to help make the connection.

Macomb County’s Manufacturing Day is made possible through the support of an active planning committee and the generosity of host sites and sponsors. 2018 sponsors included:

All-In

  • Advancing Macomb
  • Dominion Technologies
  • FCA
  • Fori Automation
  • Futuramic Tool & Engineering
  • Proper Group International
  • PTI Engineered Plastics
  • Siemens
  • Workforce Intelligence Network

Big Supporter

  • AIM Computer Solutions
  • Baker Industries
  • Ford Next Generation Learning
  • GM – Warren Transmission
  • KUKA North America
  • Lanzen Fabricating
  • Macomb County Chamber
  • Michigan Works! Young Professionals
  • Paslin
  • RCO Engineering
  • Romeo Rim
  • Sterling Heights Regional Chamber
  • UHY Advisors

Contributor

  • American Society of Employers
  • Mitsubishi Chemical Performance Polymers

For more information, visit http://business.macombgov.org/Business-Events-ManufacturingDay. And to see more pictures from this year’s event, click here.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

 

Bolstered by loyal workforce, Möllertech celebrates 20 year anniversary in Shelby Township

Automotive suppliers from around the world choose to put down roots in the Motor City region because of our collective history, talented workforce and depth of knowledge and insights in manufacturing. Möllertech is no different. The German injection molding moeller_logo_Moeller_Techcompany was attracted to the area for those exact reasons and opened its Shelby Township facility in 1998, bringing more than 250 years of experience with it. A family-owned organization, Möllertech has plants all over the world and three in the United States that specialize in vehicle interiors. At the 110,000-square-foot Michigan facility, parts are made for General Motors and BMW by 75 individuals – an employee count that will likely increase due to new projects on the horizon. But this month, the focus at Möllertech has been the celebration of its 20 year anniversary here in Macomb County; a milestone recently recognized with an open house and BBQ.

I visited Möllertech during their anniversary festivities and was greeted with a jovial atmosphere generated by employees and their families enjoying food trucks, games and activities. There was even a dunk tank for those feeling adventurous. After indulging in a few slices of wood-fired pizza, I was led on an informative tour by a Möllertech supply chain manager, Chuck Gietzen.

The first thing I noticed while walking the floor was the plant’s impeccable organization and cleanliness, which of course, is intentional. Möllertech adheres to Kaizen, a Japanese management concept focused on continuous improvement through visual order and standardization. For management, following Kaizen also means building a culture where all employees are actively engaged in suggesting and implementing efficiencies. By doing this, the company ensures a creative atmosphere that prioritizes problem solving and producing the best product possible. A new Cadillac parked just outside the plant demonstrated the outputs of this work. With all four doors open, my tour guide could point out the various parts that the company produced for the car. Back panels, A pillars, B pillars, console side covers – anything plastic is something they likely touched.

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Seeing the product in person and the machines that made it certainly drove home the scale of this supplier. But perhaps the most impressive part of my tour was passing by the Möllertech seniority wall, a display near the entrance to the plant that features the photos and names of workers who have been with the company for years – sometimes 10, sometimes 15. I discussed this trend at length with Gietzen, a 19.5 year veteran of the organization. He was its second employee. And he’s not alone in employment longevity. That seniority wall has a number of names installed. So clearly there’s something about the company that resonates with these individuals, making it easy to stay in the job for a long period of time. From my tour and in learning about Möllertech, I presume that it’s because of two reasons.

First, there’s a culture of respect. According to Gietzen, the management treats employees like family. Which requires more than just hosting employee events and parties – Möllertech listens to its workers and consistently invests in on-the-job training. Management is also very engaged with the day-to-day activities, visiting the plant, walking the floor and monitoring operations. Steve Jordan, Möllertech’s North American president and CEO, is at the Shelby facility at least every six weeks. This type of involvement shows a deep commitment to the employees and to the work they do.

Second, the innovative techniques employed by Möllertech allows them to attract new clients and jobs. For instance, on the factory tour, I saw an outlined space that will soon hold machinery and staff assigned to work on parts for the Maybach, a popular luxury vehicle. Projects like this one are exciting for employees because they allow them to develop new skills and talents. With new work coming in regularly, the choice to stay on at Möllertech would be easy.

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At the conclusion of my tour, I shook hands with Gietzen and thanked him for his time. I then made a pit stop at the edible cookie dough food truck before heading back to the office, reflecting on a great day at a great company.

If this type of work environment is something you’re interested in, stay tuned to the Möllertech website. That aforementioned Maybach work means that the company will need close to 50 new employees at the Shelby facility. And if you’re able to get a foot in the door now, perhaps you’ll be up on that seniority wall for the plant’s next big anniversary.

**Möllertech is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED).  The business development group assists companies in many facets of expanding and growing a company including:

  • Support with accessing state and local incentives and financing options
  • Assistance with workforce recruitment, training and retention programs
  • Identifying available sites for expanding or relocating a business
  • Access to business counseling services
  • Market research and marketing
  • Workshops and networking opportunities

The economic development specialists for MCPED are focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, visit macombbusiness.com or email info@macombbusiness.com.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

SMT Automation provides a solution for workforce shortages

Finding a talented workforce is top of mind for every organization. But sometimes there are barriers to getting the right people in the right positions. Especially for industries that require specialized employees, like manufacturing.

pexels-photo-1216589One of the main issues for employers in that field is a massive shortage of skilled workers. This is a problem across the country, but here in Michigan, where manufacturing makes up 87 percent of the state’s GDP, it’s become very serious. According to recent reports, there are 80,000 jobs that cannot be filled because of the scarcity of trained workers. The effects of this shortage can be very negative for profits, and if not addressed, it could lead to businesses shuttering their facilities and moving elsewhere.

That’s where Macomb County-based SMT Automation comes in.  They offer specialized staffing solutions to meet the needs of manufacturers. These teams of contracted individuals will then provide on site design and engineering services, hardware selection, implementation of control systems, support for starting machinery and commissioning and advice in control systems – services that are certainly resonating with Michigan businesses.

Behind the business
The leaders behind this successful venture are husband and wife team Marco Santana and Elena Morales. They started SMT in 2017, several years after moving from Mexico for Elena’s job. Marco, a controls and automation engineer, heard over and over from Michigan manufacturers about their workforce shortages. Given his advanced degrees, experience and connections, he felt he could find a solution to the problem and after many discussions with Elena, they established their business.

Getting started was not always easy and it required round-the-clock commitment to the job. But the couple, who have been together for 15 years, persevered and manufacturers came calling. SMT now counts several industry leaders as clients. They love the services SMT provides, which are somewhat similar to those offered by a traditional staffing agency. But it’s also completely different. Marco and Elena run an international firm that identifies engineering and automation talent around the world. They then recruit, train and manage the process for getting these individuals to the United States. Once here in Michigan, SMT employs the foreign workers and contracts out their services. But rather than just place a temporary worker, SMT places an entire team on site at the client’s facility. This team is trained in localized processes and procedures to ensure expert handling of projects in a timely manner. At the end of a job, the SMT workers are transferred to whichever client is next on the list for services.

pexels-photo-544965So how might this work in a real world situation? Say that you are a local manufacturer that is installing a new machine in one of your facilities. You have limited capacity to get that piece of equipment up and running, so you contract with SMT to bring in a knowledgeable and trained team to handle the job. This team then works on site for a determined period of time to get the assigned project done. They manage all troubleshooting, programming, design and engineering – allowing you to continue to focus on your day-to-day activities. When the job is complete, the SMT team moves on. However, if their support is needed long-term, they can stay on board.

Why do all this? Well, as previously stated, there is a trained worker shortage in Michigan and manufacturers cannot wait for the local talent pipeline to recover. So they have to turn to different labor pools and looking internationally has become an important option. This makes contracting with SMT appealing as it reduces the risk for companies that want to employ foreign workers but are wary or unsure of the process. And all told, clients of SMT are thrilled with the results of their partnerships. Some clients even want to poach SMT talent.

Recruiting a talented workforce
With SMT talent in demand, it is imperative that Marco and Elena continue their efforts to find educated and trained individuals for their workforce. Currently, they are looking to double their employee count, which will require a change in their international business model. The couple now plan to shift from hiring foreign talent to hiring right here in Metro Detroit. They want to find people with the right degrees and the right experience. But they also want employees with a positive attitude. And for Marco and Elena, this might be the most important skill of them all. They need people who will go in and get the job done. People who are up for a challenge. People who will deliver on promises made to clients. This is what sets SMT apart and makes them a vital resource for manufacturers.

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On top of finding these skilled and good-natured workers, SMT also plans to grow its footprint in Macomb County. Current operations for the business are housed in Clinton Township, but Elena and Marco are looking to expand into a larger office in the near future. With this new space, the couple can work towards their ultimate goal – giving back to their community by giving young people more employment opportunities. They wholeheartedly believe in helping the next generation of manufacturing talent get that first foot in the door, because when that demographic finds meaningful work, they contribute to the well-being of our economy. This idea is certainly part of the solution to fixing the overall workforce shortage in manufacturing. Young people need to be given the chance at these skilled careers and they should be supported in their efforts in the industry.

SMT is not alone in this mission. Macomb County leaders are making big strides in this area as well by collaborating with partners to develop and support initiatives that expose the next generation to science and technology-related education and careers. This work includes:

  • The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development partners with the Macomb Intermediate School District, along with an active planning committee and generous sponsors, to coordinate one of the nation’s largest celebrations of Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). Since 2014, more than 7,000 students have visited a nearby plant to see industry in action and learn about career possibilities.
  • Macomb Community College hosts AUTO Steam Days, a two-day hands-on opportunity for students to explore careers in automotive design, robotics, manufacturing and technology.
  • The Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Awareness Team (MADCAT) partners with academia and area U.S. Department of Defense assets to develop a career pathway for high school and college students in cybersecurity.

These efforts, combined with businesses like SMT, can perhaps put us on a pathway to solving the talent crisis in manufacturing. And furthermore, a mindset like Marco and Elena’s that prioritizes giving young people their first career opportunity, will hopefully ensure a positive economic future for the entire state.

For more information on SMT, visit their website here.

**SMT Automation is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Working with MCPED, they have access to services like assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations. To learn how our services can help your business grow, visit http://www.MacombBusiness.com or call 586-469-5285.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.