Campaign aims to raise awareness

State Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, speaks at Northwestern Michigan College’s Aero Park Campus on Monday during the Traverse City announcement of the Going Pro public-private marketing partnership. Behind Cole is a tank used for testing remotely operated underwater vehicles.

TRAVERSE CITY — Two state legislators joined local business and education leaders Monday to announce the northern Michigan launch of the Going PRO public-private partnership, aimed at building awareness of skilled trades jobs.

The information campaign will include social media, traditional media, public forums, outdoor billboard advertising and a 30-second television ad that was shown at the Monday event in the Parsons-Stulen Building at Northwestern Michigan College’s Aero Park Campus. The Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan will use the campaign to highlight high-skilled occupations and industries. The goal is to encourage people to train for and pursue employment in construction, manufacturing, health care, automotive technology and information technology.

“We know there’s a severe shortage” of skilled trades workers, Sen. Curt Vanderwall, R-Ludington, said at the event.

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance supports the campaign. So do several chambers of commerce: Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Saginaw County, Southwest Michigan and Traverse City Area.

“We’re all trying to do different things, but we all support Going PRO,” said Kent Wood, Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce director of government relations and community development. “Support for Going PRO is very strong in this region.”

The state launched its Skilled Trades Training Fund in 2013 to help fund training in fields and for jobs like welding, CNC operator, CNC programmer, robotics, information technology and electronic health records. The Skilled Trades Training Fund in 2018 was renamed the Going PRO Talent Fund.

In February, 51 area businesses received grants totaling more than $1.4 million from Michigan’s Going PRO Talent Fund for fiscal year 2019. Michigan Works! administers the program locally; its region covers 10 counties: Antrim, Leelanau, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Charlevoix, Emmet, Manistee, Missaukee and Wexford. Across the state in the grant cycle, more than $29 million was awarded to 780 employers to train 24,000 employees.

The Going PRO awareness campaign is intended to support recruitment and retention of talent in Michigan. Campaign materials highlight pay, benefits, pension, pathways to advancement and working conditions of skilled trades.

“We want opportunity to be here in Traverse City. Skilled trades are what we need here in Traverse City,” said Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers.

He said efforts to promote employment in the professional trades should help maintain and increase the flow of trained workers into local industry.

“We want to keep them strong and keep them here in Traverse City,” Carruthers said of manufacturers.

Efforts to boost interest in skilled trades careers already are paying off.

The Traverse Bay Intermediate School District’s Electrical Occupations track currently is at capacity of 50 students, with another 12 students on a waiting list, said Patrick Lamb, TBAISD Career-Tech Center principal.

During the recession, about a decade ago, that course at one point had just 20 students, Lamb said. He offered that enrollment increase as an example of how interest in skilled trades is rebounding.

“There is no better time to be in the career training business,” said Lamb.

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