In Macomb County, MI Bright Future eases talent fears

MI Bright Future picture 2Businesses across Macomb County and southeast Michigan are slowly coming to an alarming realization: The workers they depend on are approaching retirement, and there are few, if any, in the talent pipeline ready to replace them. This unsettling epiphany has left many regional employers inspired to take action in the hopes of heading off the incoming talent drought, but there is just one problem. While some companies, whether through luck or ingenuity, have figured out how to begin developing future talent, many businesses’ good intentions go unfulfilled because they simply do not know how to convert their enthusiasm into action. If you are one of the many employers feeling this way, powerless in the face of a reduced skilled workforce, or if you just want to expand your talent development efforts, MI Bright Future is for you.

MI Bright Future is a revolutionary talent development initiative currently underway in Macomb County and the greater southeast Michigan region. Through the initiative, participating employers connect directly with 118,000 students through an easy-to-use online portal to offer career guidance and education advice. Macomb County has been on the forefront of this initiative since the very beginning and is eagerly looking for more employers to partner with MI Bright Future to interact with students. In Macomb County alone, there are already over 33,000 students currently engaging with the system. One Macomb County business, Medstar Ambulance, was so eager to connect with students they recently became a contributing sponsor of the program! This enthusiasm is widely shared throughout the community, as over 230 companies and 330 career coaches have already registered to serve. And while that may sound like a lot, it’s not enough!

MI Bright Future picture 1

Why isn’t it enough? Because it is no secret that as times change, so too do the talent and skill demands of industry, and despite the educational system’s best efforts, they struggle to keep up. The ensuing disconnect between the demands of a modern economy and the curriculum of contemporary education leaves students unaware of not only the many job opportunities that exist in southeast Michigan, but more importantly the skills and credentials employers need. MI Bright Future bridges this gap by establishing a digital meeting place for professionals and students to interact directly with one another, and the more employers in the system, the more students that can be steered in the proper direction! By cutting through the red tape that has traditionally separated students from the professional world, MI Bright Future provides companies, who are the true experts in their field, the chance to educate students with real-time information about their industry, while also recruiting top-quality talent to their business.

MI Bright Future picture 3If MI Bright Future sounds a bit too good to be true, prepare to be even more amazed, because signing up for MI Bright Future is not only free, but a company’s level of engagement is entirely up to them. That means a business can do as much, or as little, as they like. From doing no more than posting a company profile to boost community awareness of their business, to registering career coaches to answer student questions on online discussion boards or offering work-based learning activities such as internships and guest speaking—even becoming a contributing sponsor like Medstar Ambulance—options range widely so a company is free to engage however they see fit.

MI Bright Future is for both those hoping to recruit young talent to their industry and those simply wishing to make a positive impact on the lives of young Michiganders. To register, visit mibrightfuture.org and complete the registration form that best suits your preference. Registrants may elect to register their company as a whole, or register only themselves as career coaches independent of their business. If you have any questions during the registration process, please contact the MI Bright Future team at info@mibrightfuture.org.

Trevor Leatzow is a program assistant for MI Bright Future.

Newly revived business association seeks to unite and empower businesses in Center Line

Center Line picture.pngThe Center Line Business Association (CLBA) is a group of dedicated local business leaders whose primary purpose is to build a better community through local small business networking. At the heart of this effort is the ideology that by coordinating a group effort in the community, an attraction to commerce is relative to all. After all, smart business owners know that good business requires a healthy economy, and a healthy economy requires a healthy community.

Center Line picture 3Center Line is fortunate to have many loyal businesses that contribute time and money to make it such a great place to live and work. These individual efforts have gone a long way in a short period of time. The improved look and feel of the city is gaining momentum with a promising future on the rise. The results can be seen in the facades, the K-9 unit patrolling the areas and the increased number in daytime traffic. This is what the CLBA is all about. Our city is a gem in the heart of metropolitan Detroit, and we are surrounded by the most densely populated areas in the state.

Please consider becoming a part of this effort to gain new opportunities and growth for current and future businesses in the city. The CLBA offers local business owners the opportunity to meet once a month to discuss issues pertinent to their businesses and the continued growth of the CLBA.

CHRYSLER GROUP LLC HOME OF MOPARThe CLBA is currently polling businesses in the community about their vision for the future of the city. To participate, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CLBA_Survey.

To learn more about getting involved with the CLBA, call the city at (586) 757-6800.

John Motyka is the president of the Center Line Business Association and owner of Elite Ink Tattoo Company in Center Line.

Macomb food entrepreneur lays groundwork for growth

Daves-Sweet-ToothMarch is Food and Ag Month in Michigan. Agriculture, food processors and related businesses employ 22 percent of the state’s workforce, and the state has 2,166 licensed food processors generating nearly $25 billion in economic activity. Macomb County is no exception to this growing trend. With 502 farms spanning 67,960 acres and 1,409 food manufacturing jobs, Macomb County boasts a healthy food and agricultural industry. Here is a close-up look at the path one Harrison Township food processor is taking to build a successful food business in Macomb County.

You may have heard about Dave’s Sweet Tooth when CEO Andrew Chmielewski made the Crain’s Detroit Business “20 in their 20s” list or landed on the Forbes “30 under 30” food and drink list, or you may have even seen the company featured on Good Morning America last year. Their toffee is carried in stores across the state and country, including Kroger, Marshalls, Whole Foods Market and Nino Salvaggio, as well as sold online. They will even be featured once again on Good Morning America as the Deal of the Day tomorrow, March 30. In business for only five years, this company is expanding at an incredible rate.

Dave’s Sweet Tooth manufactures delicious handmade toffee made from Chmielewski’s father’s homemade recipe. While touring the 5,000-square-foot facility, I was able to watch workers take the cooled toffee from baking sheets and break it into pieces by hand. In another room, employees were stuffing the toffee pieces into packages. Seems simple enough. Yet, a lot of hard work went into establishing the business, and more lies ahead to ensure the company’s growth is sustainable. And that’s where the experts come in.

daves-sweet-tooth-toffee-pouch-collection_1024x1024Chmielewski is tapping into all of the resources and services available to entrepreneurs. He is currently enrolled in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s economic gardening program. The Michigan Manufacturing Technical Center is also helping the company prepare for their Safe Quality Food (SQF) inspection as well as prepare the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plan.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is offering the company support through providing information about export programs which could help the company tap into markets in Canada, China or anywhere in the world. MDARD offers trade missions and participates in international trade shows where companies can become familiar with foreign markets and even meet one-on-one with buyers to discuss their products. The state also offers the Branding Program which reimburses companies up to 50 percent for translation services, airfare, hotel costs and vendor table space for international trips and toward expenses such as creating bilingual labels and websites geared toward a foreign market.

Jack Johns, program coordinator for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, also met with Chmielewski to discuss any needs the growing company has. Johns informed him that when Dave’s Sweet Tooth finds itself at capacity in its current space, Macomb County can help the company locate a new facility and take advantage of all the cost-saving incentives available to food processing businesses, which may include a tax abatement.

If you are a food or agricultural business in Macomb County, reach out to Johns at jack.johns@macombgov.org or call (586) 469-6293 to see what kinds of programs, incentives and partners are out there to help your business succeed.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

SME Education Foundation’s PRIME program fills skills gap

SME 1-cI had a chance to visit Wadsworth High School in Ohio to learn about SME (formally known as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) Education Foundation’s PRIME program which focuses on building centers of excellence in manufacturing education. PRIME stands for Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education, and that is exactly what SME is trying to do around the country – to bring back advanced manufacturing education during a time when there is a big shortage of in-demand skilled  talent in those positions, such as mechatronics, programming, welding, CNC machining, metrology and more.

There will be large amounts of retirees in the next decade with very few new employees getting into those trades. Businesses are worried about their futures, and schools are catching on that they are the first step to showing students what these jobs entail.

Through the PRIME program, SME Education Foundation handles communication between both the local industrial employers needing staff for positions they can’t fill and the schools that are training the students in those types of jobs. It is beneficial for both the schools and businesses for SME Education Foundation to take the lead on running the program because of the experience they have. They are also able to get the equipment at better prices while local employers fund the program as well as help   supply the equipment to the schools. Busy in the classroom, teachers would be unable to get the machines purchased and work on the needs of the employers to set up this program themselves.

SME 2-cWhen visiting Wadsworth High School, we were able to see the rooms set up for training. They had the newest equipment, and students were very excited to show us what they were working on and their understanding of the machines. There was a local employer there as well, boasting about how well the program works, specifically targeting employers’ needs for jobs that cannot be filled right now. Employers also like the fact that the students are well-rounded with additional skills before they get out of the program.

The students advised that they like the classes because they give them a chance to use their hands and learn with real equipment and parts instead of just books. The teachers say that this gives kids a different type of learning experience. Students are assigned projects where they have to think on their feet to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it.

PRIME gives students an understanding of whether or not they like this type of work. This has given many young adults who are not college-bound an opportunity for good jobs after high school. It also gives those who are going to college a better feel for what route they want to take. Some even decide to take different paths in college, such as engineering, that they would not have without their experience in the PRIME training. Additionally, employers are now able to have a long-term plan to fill their future job openings and have better communication with the local schools.

There is a serious effort to establish this program in Macomb County. If you are interested in more information, contact Stan Simik at ssimek@sme.org or Josh Cramer at jcramer@sme.org.

Josh Cramer, senior educational programs officer for SME, will make a presentation about PRIME for the Manufacturing Day Planning Committee. Readers who are interested in learning more about how to get involved are welcome to join from 8-10 a.m. Tuesday, March 21 at the Macomb Intermediate School District, Superior Room, 44001 Garfield Road, Clinton Township. Please send a quick email to maria.zardis@macombgov.org if you plan to attend.

Johns, Jack IMG_0030Jack Johns is a project coordinator for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in working with food, agriculture, energy, robotics, autonomous vehicle and retail businesses. If you are a business owner and would like to contact him, email jack.johns@macombgov.org or call (586) 469-6293.

Defense Manufacturing Assistance Program offers tools for sales success

The University of Michigan’s Defense Manufacturing Assistance Program (DMAP) recognizes the importance of Macomb County’s Defense Corridor to our national security and works as a strategic partner with local firms. We have developed a Sales, Leads and Markets (SLAM) training seminar to address the challenges government contractors face when developing strategies to diversify into private sector markets.

DMAP-Logo-1

This free seminar offers techniques and strategies to develop leads and long-term customer relationships. If you are uncertain if you are targeting the right markets or if your lead management process is producing results, then SLAM training is for you! We already have a great response and expect a well-attended event where defense contractors and other firms will have good networking opportunities.

SLAM training will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 30 at the Velocity Collaboration Center located at 6633 18 Mile Rd. in Sterling Heights. There is no cost to attend. Please register at defensemap.org/events. Nondefense firms are welcome as space permits.

DMAP is a Department of Defense-funded program that provides resilience and diversification assistance for the defense supply chain via advisory plans and co-funded projects up to $100,000 for companies experiencing or anticipating adverse impacts of defense downsizing.  DMAP has assessed over 150 firms and conducted projects ranging from lean manufacturing to succession planning. Learn more about DMAP and the SLAM event at www.defensemap.org, or contact me at pamweiss@umich.edu or 734-998-6521.

Pam Weiss is the project intermediate manager for DMAP.

SLAM training

 

Roseville High School students learn valuable workforce skills

In honor of Career and Technical Education Month, County Executive Mark A. Hackel, Department of Planning & Economic Development Director John Paul Rea and other department staff toured the Auto Tech Department at Roseville High School. This impressive and growing program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It teaches students the technical skills needed to pass state certifications which will enable them to get jobs in the automotive industry.

miranda working on daytona.jpgOne of the cars the kids are working on is a 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe which will be displayed at Autorama this weekend and compete against cars from other schools. Judges will evaluate elements such as cleanliness, safety, if the vehicle is complete (no missing bolts) and attention to detail.

The vehicle originally arrived as a kit car – which means lots of boxes with many pieces that don’t necessarily fit together perfectly, and this is how junior Miranda Rumfelt prefers it.

“I like to figure out how to do it rather than have it ready to go,” said Rumfelt.

Just last week, she painted the shell of the Daytona. And by paint, I mean she mixed the paint and applied the primer, sealer, base coat and clear coat. And after the painting is done, it isn’t finished. The vehicle still needs wet sanding, the buffing wheel, wax and touchups.

mark-miranda-clay-modelRumfelt is just one of the growing number of girls participating in Roseville’s Auto Tech program. In addition to class, she also attends DRIVE at the high school Thursday evenings. This program isn’t limited to students, and here, Rumfelt has learned even more specialized skills, such as tape drawing and clay modeling, for which she has won awards from the Michigan Industrial & Technology Education Society.

With a goal of leading her own design team at Chrysler or General Motors one day, Rumfelt plans to take summer classes at Lawrence Tech, is aggressively seeking internships and is looking ahead to college, potentially at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

working.jpgIn the meanwhile, some of her classmates are passing their certifications and already lining up great jobs right out of high school. Auto Tech Department Head Paul Tregembo Jr. said the school has found great partnerships with several local businesses, including Roy O’Brien, and welcome more. If you have a business interested in getting involved with the Roseville Auto Tech Department, contact Tregembo at DriveOneDetroit@gmail.com.

To learn more about Roseville High School’s automotive programs, visit rcs.misd.net/roseville-high-school.html or DriveOne.net, find them on Facebook at facebook.com/DriveOneDetroit or follow on Twitter @DriveOnDetroit.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

Website launched to ramp up support for F-35 aircraft at Selfridge

As part of Macomb County’s campaign to secure a squadron of the F-35 Lightening II at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum and County Executive Mark A. Hackel announced the launch of a new website, mif35.org.

selfridge_1The Department of Defense is currently reviewing five potential locations for the fighter aircraft and will choose two final sites. A site survey will be conducted at Selfridge in July, and a final decision by the secretary of the Air Force is expected this summer or fall.

The county is partnering with the base, the Selfridge Community Council, the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce and other community partners to promote Selfridge as the ideal location for the F-35 and to highlight the economic benefits of landing the new aircraft at the base.

The website, designed by Mount Clemens-based Hunch Free, is one of the tools being used to engage the local community and inform them about the importance of bringing the F-35 to Selfridge. In addition to featuring detailed information and supplemental videos, the website also opens a channel of communication with the public, allowing users to show their support, sign up to receive updates and submit any questions they may have about the F-35 potentially coming to Selfridge.

140926-F-OC707-803

According to Slocum, Selfridge has fantastic airmen and is a wonderful facility that can easily handle the F-35 aircraft. He emphasized that if the F-35 comes to Harrison Township, it will secure the future of the base for decades to come.

“This is the base that deserves the F-35,” said Hackel.

In addition to strategic location, other features will also be taken into consideration as the Department of Defense makes its decision, such as education and job opportunities as well as housing costs and more. Hackel said he will be a forceful advocate to get the F-35, and if accomplished, he has no doubt any additional employees this transition may bring will feel comfortable making Macomb their home.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.