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Posted on Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Gov. Snyder's economic summit searching for answers as talented Michigan students search for jobs

By Ben Freed


Scott Temple speaks to the Governor's Economic Summit in Detroit Monday morning. Temple is a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University who wants to find a job in human resources.

Tanya Moutzalias | MLive Detroit


“Gap” has been the word of the day at Governor Rick Snyder’s first economic summit. But is there a “talent gap,” a “skills gap,” a “communication gap,” or a “wage gap?” That all depends on who you ask.

The largest gap exists between the two counter-intuitive narratives that have emerged at the summit: employers cannot find talented workers to fill open positions, and young talented people who want to work in Michigan can’t find jobs.

Governor Snyder set the tone for the conference by referencing both narratives during his brief opening remarks. He first spoke about the 60,000 unfilled jobs on the state’s job search engine He pointed out that if those jobs were all filled, it could lead to a 1.5 percent decrease in the state’s unemployment rate.

With his next breath he said that Michigan’s greatest resource is not its Great Lakes, but the people in the state. He then proceeded to bring 10 college seniors and recent graduates to the stage, who made “the elevator pitch of their lives” to the crowd.

The students were polished, poised, and professional, but somehow each of them was still struggling to find employment in Michigan. Leaving the session, the gathered business owners, economic development officers, and industry leaders were all wondering aloud how these people had not been hired yet.

“It’s a communication gap,” recent University of Michigan graduate Morgan Fett said.

“The dehumanizing of the hiring process has a lot to do with it. There are so many skilled and passionate youth out there who just can't make the connections they need to show how impressive they are.”

Fett might have a point. Economist Paul Traub poked holes in the “skills gap” argument by noting that if there were a shortage of skilled employees, wages should have risen as demand outpaced supply. While there have been some modest gains in wages in Michigan, they have not been high enough to support this measure of skills gap.

Traub also said that employers expectations have been rising. They are looking for the perfect job candidate, not merely a qualified one. In his presentation, a slide noted that “companies just aren’t willing to forgo profits and hire that next incremental employee.”

“It’s not a question of ‘is there a talented workforce?’ There is,” ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed said.

“It’s not a question of quality it’s a question of quantity. It’s difficult to attract people from outside the state to Michigan right now and a lot of the young talent is leaving the state. The talented workforce is in high demand, and there’s not enough of them.”

One of the students who addressed the summit in the morning was Eastern Michigan University graduate student Scott Temple. He works in the claims department at the University of Michigan but is taking an internship at Ford Motor Company’s HR department over the summer.

Temple gets to see both sides of the equation. As someone who has both submitted and reviewed resumes and applications, he says there’s work that needs to be done by both job seekers and employers.

“On the seekers end, the gap is knowing how to work the system and structure your resume for the computer systems that a lot of companies use now,” he said.

“People looking for jobs also need to take networking more seriously, and get involved with different groups and organizations with the express goal of meeting people.”

That personal connection seems to be the key to finding a job in the state today. Not surprisingly the presenters who were most engaging on stage were the ones with the largest circles of potential employers jockeying to speak with them.

Temple said that for their part, companies do need to be less reliant on technology when it comes to finding the right people to hire. There are not enough human eyes that go over the resumes, but that it is made more difficult by the sheer number of applications that come in for every open position, he said.

“In business you always want to try to have less people doing more things,” he said.

“That makes it more on the job seekers to take more risks to get their name out there, that’s when you see people trip and fall right into an opportunity.”

The state’s economic leaders have an opportunity today and tomorrow to figure out what is keeping the state’s talent from matching with its jobs. Maybe an entire summit is needed just to put college graduates in front of the state’s employers and let them talk for 2 minutes each.

Also, if anyone is looking to hire someone in HR, I have a copy of Temple’s resume. He wouldn’t leave our interview with passing one off to me.

“You never know,” he said. “Being too safe is the biggest risk you can take.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

Don't worry....I've been hearing that "freedom" to work (for less) will solve all of our problems! Thanks Guv!

Basic Bob

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Tell us how that's affected anyone.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 12:18 a.m.

Look at the pyramid: trying to make any state attractive to "talented people" does not solve the problem. The problem is that there are far fewer jobs at/near the top than there are "rank and file" jobs. Ultimately, you end up with a conundrum: it takes a large number of very large companies to create "enough" jobs at the top and at all "lower levels" (an unfortunate part of language is that it has its own "class consciousness"). But you won't have a lot of big companies moving into a state unless: you've already attracted all kinds of "talent" and "skilled workers." More people would work at any level in San Francisco than would in Detroit - and it's not all about crime, it's about climate, environment, cultural attractions, etc. 'Been hearing Michiganians say they want to or are about to move to California since the 1950s. I wish I had $5 for every time I've heard such news. My daughter , who lives in the Bay Area, has been saying for years that she's never had any trouble finding Michigan and Ann Arbor people out there. I've done this: wore my Michigan Wolverines cap out there - I got "Go Blue" salutes even in the middle of Yosemite National Park. That's not coincidence: it happened over and over again in various places in California. I was pleased at first, but now not so much. We also have established Michigan professionals moving out there - or retiring in places like San Diego. And lets not even start on Colorado. My own mother always wanted to move out there, one of my high school sweethearts did and so did a couple of other adult pals who wanted to work in the same kind of job only "out there" not here in Michigan. We've got an image problem, a quality of life problem right here.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 9:20 p.m.

I disagree with Gov. Snyder on this one. The Great Lakes are probably more valuable than the people, especially if commenters are a representative sample.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

What's Snyder's incentive for the Graduating Student's? He's cut funding to higher education forcing the Students to borrow more; he's implemented unfriendly policies towards women, unions, gays, seniors and many other groups - Michigan is now one of the most backwards States in the Country; he's raised income taxes; roads and infrastructure are in horrible shape, etc. Why on Earth would anyone young be persuaded to stay in Michigan without family ties or some other strong reason?


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

@ Basic Bob - sometimes this truth hurts, like in this case

Basic Bob

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

Great pep talk. That divide and conquer approach always helps motivate people.

Lloyd Payer

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Michigan business want people for cheap labor thats why they cannot find help plus their business is on it way out nobody wants there high price products nobody wants to liuve in michigans the tax tax tax state high cost poor servixces just look at the state roads high ncost for repairs that don;t last 3 years and than snyder wants more taxe come on know who pulling a con job to the people of michigan


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

Right to work for less!

Ben Freed

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

@nekm1: Couldn't agree more. I think as you heard in this story, getting face-time with employers is crucial for job seekers and internships are the ultimate way to do that. I know I got my job here at because I did well when I interned here. @Lizzy: It would be a job fair, but one in which you get real face time, not the customary handshake and resume drop-off that happens at most career fairs, those tend to be no better than online searches. @Basic Bob: One of the major issues for college graduates is getting that first "foot in the door" job because so many jobs have "2-5 years" of experience or "mid level" experience. I know that I was told by a mentor to take a job offer that wasn't perfect because "the best time to look for a job is when you already have one"


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

Corporations not longer hire new graduates and train them for the positions that they are seeking to fill. They want someone who can walk in the door and already have the experience to do the job. If you are just out of college you cannot compete with someone who has already done the work. Some very talented liberal arts graduates bring their ability to learn quickly and to think critically. Corporations/employers need to invest in their employees-what better way to do it than with our state's new college grads?


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

The other gap is called expectation gap. Expecting that you will graduate with no experience and make $50K or more right out of school. I realize college is very expensive and that these students almost need to get paid that much just to make their student loan payments but that's a systemic problem we have with our education system. Businesses are getting squeezed hard with new regulations, higher taxes, Obamacare, and more and more regulations............this is the very things these graduates have voted for. The real world and the world of being a college student with mom and dad footing the bill are two different worlds. We're soon going to be looking at higher gasoline taxes, higher license fees, a possible 2% sales tax increase, and/or a services tax. That's less money for business owners to pay their employees, increase their wages, or improve or continue their benefits, hire new employees or expand their businesses. They must not teach this stuff in schools anymore...................


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

What taxes have been raised on businesses? Specifically, which new regulations harm businesses more than their benefits to society? (is it better to have more pollutants that cause health problems in exchange for jobs?) Small businesses can get tax credits for health insurance now, that helps them. If you care to, go talk to the owner of Downtown Home and Garden, he will explain it to you.

Ben Freed

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

Mike, that's a great point. There have been a lot of expectation gaps mentioned here. The one you noted is definitely very real and has made students more picky. As other commenters here have noted, corporations have also raised their expectations of their new hires. It's a knife that cuts both ways

Basic Bob

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

All these new high tech graduates command a large salary, some even get signing bonuses. The truth is businesses can pay the same amount and get an older worker with decades of experience. Managers have a hard time justifying the time it takes to properly train an entry level college graduate, and getting little or no productive work done in the meantime. I had a boss tell me he would not hire a college graduate because he had to pay them more. (Also they are more likely to leave) It is short term planning. In time, enough people will retire and employers will have run out of options and will be forced to close or hire inexperienced staff.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

Great points raised: @nekm1 I agree that internships are absolutely crucial, and I don't think enough college students recognize that. Also, as was said in the article, networking is huge. Just getting in front of anyone in the sector you're interested in can go a long ways. Ben: It would be interesting to see the outcome of a longer summit like you mention. Isn't that essentially the same thing as a job fair?


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

The ONLY thing that will dramatically improve Detroit is for Detroit to re-invent itself and come up with a world famous and popular industry to replace the auto industry. A New Bridge and High Speed Rail will only help with short term jobs and asist others to pass through the city faster. Detroit and the State of Michigan needs much needed regular tax revenue! I have suggested to various govt people to work with Disney to create a waterfront theme park, with gated facility, boat docks, hotels, ethnic pavilions, a Motown exhibit, auto and energy exhibits, etc, etc. ....all protected in the winter by a removable roofing system, similar to what you see at some sports gambling, but rather optional busing to area casinos and other SE Michigan attractions (Rouge Plant, The Henry Ford, etc). Pretty crazy, eh?! That's my idea....what's Yours???


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

First thing these kids need to learn is the importance of internships while in school. Second is NOT to depend on to help you find a job. Interview, in person, with as many companies as you can. Face to face can go a long way to securing a position. Many times it is not for the published opening, but if you impress they will find you a place in the organization. If you sit on your hands in front of a computer thinking that will do the job, to find a job, you are mistaken. Network, network, network. And leave your smart phone in your pocket. Look folks in the eye.. If you work at it, you will find it or it will find you!