Your Story: Different Ways To Measure Retraining Success

JoAnne Jachyra learned about the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program when she was laid off from her IT management job in 2009. TAA is a federal program that funds retraining for workers who lose their jobs to international competition.

Jachyra qualified for the funds and used them to go back to school, something she’s always wanted to do. “Ever since I graduated from Michigan State with a degree in astrophysics I had entertained the idea of becoming a teacher,” says Jachyra. “I had to do a process and say ‘OK well here’s what I want to do, here’s how long it’ll take, here’s how much it’ll cost.’ And part of that is they have a list and they say ‘these are the growing professions that you can get trained in because we feel that you will be able to find a job when you are done with that.’” Teaching was on that list.


Jachyra spent a year in an accelerated degree program – the cost was about $3,000 – that was paid for by the TAA. “It didn’t cost me anything other than time and a lot of effort,” says Jachyra.She got her certification to teach high school and middle school math and physics, but finding a job proved more difficult than she had expected. “I seriously thought being certified as a physics and math teacher I should be able to walk into any school in metro Detroit and have a job,” she says. Continue reading “Your Story: Different Ways To Measure Retraining Success”

States Find Out How Hard It Is To Get People Back To Work

in the case of unemployment rates in the Great Lakes states, headlines do not tell the full story. 

This week, we heard that Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent, within shouting distance of the national unemployment rate, and way down from the 14 percent territory it reached during the worst of the recession.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s rate held steady at 6.9 percent for the second straight month, and it’s down from 9.2 percent in June 2009.

But behind the Michigan numbers lies a paradox: the state has 409,000 people out of work, but there are 76,000 job openings that can’t be filled. Gov. Rick Snyder talked about this on Wednesday at a town hall in Detroit, urging job seekers to register with the state’s talent bank.

And in Wisconsin, the unemployment rate actually rose in 27 cities whose population was more than 25,000, and in 66 counties. Continue reading “States Find Out How Hard It Is To Get People Back To Work”

Toyota Is Back To Its Old Self, Growing Again

Over the past few years, Toyota’s world was Total Recall — not the movie, but the struggles it faced over defects. But this year, Toyota is back to its old self, adding jobs and making  investments.

It’s already spending $400 million to hire 400 more people in Princeton, Ind., and it’s brought its Blue Springs, Miss., plant up to full staff. Now, Toyota is expanding again, at its newest Canadian plant in Woodstock, Ontario.

Toyota said today it’s investing $80 million (Canadian) and hiring 400 more people as it increases production of the small RAV4 sport utility. The company will go from building 150,000 RAVs a year to 200,000 annually.

Toyota has operations all over the Midwest, including its big design and research center in Ann Arbor, Mich., its headquarters outside Cincinnati and many suppliers scattered everywhere. So, any step Toyota takes is important to our region.

Here’s a look at some of the strategic thinking behind what Toyota is doing.

To Prepare Workers, Retraining Programs Try To Predict The Future

Sarah Alvarez contributed to this story.

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Unemployment numbers in the Midwest are bad. Not as bad as when the recession was at its worst, but there are still a lot of people looking for jobs. Even so, we keep hearing that some employers can’t find enough skilled workers. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says in his state alone, there are more than 77,000 job openings that can’t be filled.

Wendy Whitmore. Credit: Preeti Upadhyaya

There is really only one way to bridge that gap. People need training. And the way people are getting that training is changing.

Wendy Whitmore is the CEO of EMR Approved, a company in Chicago that works with doctors and hospitals that are making the switch to electronic medical records.

Four years ago, EMR Approved didn’t exist. Back then, Wendy Whitmore was running SSG Consulting, an IT consulting firm that wasn’t doing so well.

So she decided to try something new, and she took 12 of her employees with her.

Whitmore still runs SSG Consulting, and some of her employees straddle both businesses, but what they’re doing now is totally new.

Continue reading “To Prepare Workers, Retraining Programs Try To Predict The Future”

Job Retraining: Tell Us What Works — And What Doesn’t

Changing Gears is taking a look at job retraining, one of the hottest topics in our region.

Tomorrow, Meg Cramer reports on a new business-focused approach that calls for companies to to oversee training, so that workers get the skills they need. Later on, we’ll also be looking at how to measure whether retraining is effective.

You can help us figure this out. Employees, have you gotten training to acquire new skills, or to start a new career? Companies, is your business training workers to meet its needs, rather than counting on them to have them?

Take our survey and let us know what works and what doesn’t. We’re also hoping you’ll chat with us about retraining. Tell us how we can get in touch with you.

The Controversial Economic Report That Challenges Everything We Think We Know About U.S. Manufacturing

Job losses in manufacturing from 2000 - 2010 were devastating in almost every state. And a new report claims that productivity gains in manufacturing were not as strong as advertised. Credit: The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

Economic reports are not usually the kind of thing that gets the heart racing. But earlier this week, a non-profit think-tank called The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation put out a report that amounts to a bombshell.

The report is titled “Worse Than the Great Depression: What the Experts Are Missing About American Manufacturing Decline.”

We first read about the report in the Washington Post. The basic claim is that manufacturing in this country is not doing nearly as well as advertised. At Changing Gears, we’ve made a lot out of the productivity gains in manufacturing over the past couple of years. According to everything we’ve heard, manufacturing productivity has led the way out of the recession, and Midwest manufacturing has been a major driver of growth.

But the ITIF report provides a blunt challenge to that story line. Some of the claims in the report are controversial, and not widely accepted. But even the federal government now says there could be problems with how it measures manufacturing productivity.

And that could have big implications for the policies our leaders consider in the future.

Continue reading “The Controversial Economic Report That Challenges Everything We Think We Know About U.S. Manufacturing”

Meet The Machine That Makes Most Of The Things In Your Life

Instructor Steve Henkelman programs a CNC machine at Grand Rapids Community College. Credit: Dustin Dwyer

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This month, we’re taking a look at some of the hidden assets of the industrial Midwest – the parts of our economy that don’t often get noticed when we talk about our strengths.

We found one hidden asset right smack in the middle of our manufacturing sector. It’s a machine that’s in literally thousands of factories across the Midwest. And, though, you might not have heard of it before, the CNC machine – and the people who operate it – are at the core of our economy.

CNC stands for computer-numerically-controlled. And what the computerized machine does is it machines things. That sounds ridiculous unless you know that machine is not just a noun. It’s also a specific manufacturing process.

It’s when you cut away a material. It’s basically commercial sculpting.

“Machining is at, or very close to, the foundation of manufacturing,” says Peter Zelinski, senior editor at Modern Machine Shop magazine.

Zelinski says, even if you’ve never heard of it, CNC machining is essential to your life.
Continue reading “Meet The Machine That Makes Most Of The Things In Your Life”

Turning On The Jets To Save Air Base Jobs

Michigan’s 15-member congressional delegation doesn’t agree on everything, but it has reached a consensus on one thing: the need to save jobs at the state’s air national guard bases.

The Michigan Red Devils' emblem/via Wikipedia

Democratic and Republican lawmakers joined forces today to ask the Senate and House Armed Services committee to spare the bases, located in Battle Creek and Harrison Township.

The cuts at the outposts would mean the loss of 652 jobs, with 561 coming at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, according to the Detroit Free Press. That’s the home of the 107th Fighter Squadron, known as the Michigan Red Devils.

A civilian group, the Selfridge Base Community Council, says eliminating the squadron would have a ripple effect on the community. (Beyond that, it has a very cool logo.)

Would you be affected by the base cuts?

Midwest Memo: “Something Wrong” In Wisconsin, Casino Plans In Michigan And A Region Digs Out

“There’s something wrong” Wisconsin leads the nation in private sector job losses since last July, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. And it’s the only state that’s lost jobs for the last six months in a row.

Rolling the dice The Detroit Free Press revealed over the weekend that a whopping 22 new casinos are being proposed in the state of Michigan. The paper finds plenty of skepticism whether that many casinos could succeed.

Nuclear option Partner station Michigan Radio reports on the effort to save a planned nuclear research facility at Michigan State University.

Cleveland art Cleveland’s new Museum of Contemporary Art will open in October.

Importing workers CNN reports that some manufacturers who can’t find skilled workers in the U.S. have started importing them.

Police cuts Two Chicago police precincts closed yesterday. The Chicago Tribune says it’s part of a move that should save the city $10-12 million. Chicago is working to close a $636 million budget gap.

Recovery People in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana are starting the recovery process after this weekend’s deadly storms.

Student Debt: The Cost Of Learning A Trade

Kate Davidson
For $2, this little guy gets a “college boy” cut from barber student Tom Amundson

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America’s student loan debt is now bigger than its credit card debt. It’s approaching a trillion dollars. Student loan default rates are rising too. While many families struggle to afford traditional colleges, a lot of student debt comes from attending private, for-profit schools that focus on vocational training. These students default on their loans twice as often as students from public colleges. Today we’re looking at one small school battling big defaults.

Continue reading “Student Debt: The Cost Of Learning A Trade”