Sen. Stabenow holds roundtable with community leaders at NMU

Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson, left, talks to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, right following a workforce discussion at the Jacobetti Complex on NMU’s campus in Marquette on Friday. The event marked the last of six such meetings around the state in which Stabenow sought input from stakeholders for workforce legislation she intends to introduce iater this year. (Photo by Lisa Bowers)

By LISA BOWERS

Journal Ishpeming

Bureau

ISHPEMING – Sen. Debbie Stabenow concluded her weeklong series of workforce discussions throughout the state at Northern Michigan University’s Jacobetti Complex on Friday.

The discussion focused on what can be done to fill the demand for skilled workers in Michigan and provide professional career and training opportunities for high school graduates who don’t choose a four-year college path, as well as workers who want to be retrained for new jobs.

Those present at the meeting included local business and labor leaders, educators from NMU and area school districts, along with students and parents.

Stabenow, who is the co-chair of the Bipartisan Senate Manufacturing Caucus, said the feedback of all involved is important if the needs of employers and job seekers are to be met.

“I want to bring people together to find out how I can help federally,” Stabenow said. “Certainly I support funding, but also just getting the word out. There are a lot of great choices for students once they graduate from high school.”

Stabenow said the round-tables have allowed her to gather feedback from stakeholders in order to reintroduce her New Skills for New Jobs Act.

The proposed legislation, which she originally introduced to the Senate in October 2015, builds on successful job training partnerships between community colleges and local businesses to help close the skills gap and support businesses that are ready to hire.

Stabenow said one choice for high school graduates is a four-year degree. But the focus on the skilled trades offers other options as well.

“The National Association of Manufacturers said that in seven years we are going to see 3.5 million new manufacturing jobs and 2 million of them will go unfilled across the country,” Stabenow said. “So if we want to drive our economy in Michigan and be ahead of things, we need young people that want to make things and build things, having the opportunity and the exposure to see a great job.”

NMU along with local business leaders have developed ways to reach out to middle and high school students, Stabenow said.

“First of all, there are great things being done here, and people work together,” Stabenow said. “The intermediate school districts and the career tech centers are doing a great job. There’s obviously local support because people are willing to support local millages. Northern is a great leader in all of this.”

NMU President Fritz Erickson said the roundtable discussion provided feedback to help keep NMU’s programs headed in the right direction.

“We have to share the message that these are great jobs and great careers. We need to share that with kids that are in middle school and high school, but also share it with their parents so that they also understand,” Erickson said. “From a Northern perspective, it’s something that we need to do a better job at — sharing everything that happens in the Jacobetti Complex — because these are wonderful programs, and we need to help people better understand what we’re doing.”

Stabenow also held a community discussion in Ishpeming earlier in the day regarding the benefits of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative on local communities, specifically about Deer Lake and the Lake Superior shoreline.

“What I have been doing is going around Michigan highlighting successful projects funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” Stabenow said. “Because the Trump Administration wants to zero out all the funding to protect the Great Lakes, I am working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to push back and make sure that doesn’t happen. But part of what we have to do is focus on ways in which funding has made a real difference in the community.”

Stabenow referenced locations all over the U.P. that have benefited from the GLRI.

“We have in this community McCarty’s Cove and you can drive all around here where at one point the beaches were not clean enough to be able to swim, and because of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and partnering with the local community, we now cleaned those up,” Stabenow said. “Pictured Rocks — same thing; there have been millions of dollars spent to clean up the areas to protect the shoreline, to protect needs for Pictured Rocks.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.