A new podcast from Ypsilanti-based Michigan Works! Southeast (MWSE) aims to help local job-seekers and employers better understand Southeast Michigan's rapidly changing job market.
MWSE Executive Director Shamar Herron serves as host for the show, which is called "Workforce@Work." He says the first season will mostly focus on Industry 4.0 – a term referring to the era of automation in manufacturing and industry – and will continue through June. Herron says he picked Industry 4.0 as the first topic to explore in-depth because "it's a personal passion of mine, but I also see a larger impact."
"Industry 4.0 is not something that is five to 10 years down the road. It's been here for five or 10 years and it continues evolving weekly," he says. "Autonomy, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, big data, additive manufacturing, robots — all that stuff is already here."
Herron notes that Michigan is a hub for many of these new technologies, and autonomous vehicle test facilities like Mcity in Ann Arbor and the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township are "trendsetters."
"People are flocking here to see the technology and research being done right in our backyards," Herron says.
However, the Workforce Intelligence Network recently found that 43,000 Industry 4.0 jobs went unfilled in Michigan in 2019. If employers and agencies like Michigan Works! don't prepare job-seekers for these new jobs through retraining and upskilling, those industries will move elsewhere, and those job losses will "reverberate throughout the community," Herron says.
"We should all be focused on lifelong learning anyway. Get ahead of the curve, instead of behind it," Herron says.
Herron says the podcast's second season will take a different approach. The focus will remain on workforce issues, but he says the show will add some "community flavor," discussing issues like restorative justice and how to build resilience in communities. He says no matter whether a job-seeker lives in Ypsilanti or Jackson, they still have transportation, housing, and food security needs.
"You can't always think that giving someone a job will fix all their problems. Sometimes it creates a bigger issue, because of the 'cliff effect,'" he says. "If you start making over a certain amount, you start losing benefits. We'll talk about how to advocate for systems that support people who want to go to work."
Herron says that job-seekers who fear they lack skills for the modern workforce should know that Michigan Works! will focus on the "soft" skills, like showing up on time and critical thinking, that seasoned workers already have.
"If you think you need to be upskilled, come talk to us. We're a resource with a strength-based perspective," Herron says. "You do have skills, and we'll put you into positions that are in growth mode with companies that have potential to continue to grow. We're an inspiring, hope-driven resource for the community."
Season one of "Workforce@Work" is available here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.