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PROGRESS 2022: VIEWPOINT: Employers making progress

News File Photo A help-wanted sign is seen outside of a Dollar General store in Alpena in this April 2020 News archive photo.

Higher pay. Better benefits. Partnerships with colleges and recruiters. Easier paths to certification. Paid training.

Those are just some of the ways Northeast Michigan employers have worked to overcome a shortage of qualified employees who match the expectations of the jobs available.

All of that was detailed in The News’ 2022 Progress edition, an annual look back at the issues affecting the Northeast Michigan economy.

The News talked to manufacturers, educators, attorneys, a restaurateur, and health care professionals about their experiences with a worker shortage.

Part of the problem is a lack of available people in Northeast Michigan. The region’s unemployment rate in November (the most recent month for which data is available) was about 5.6%, and it was a low 4.2% in Alpena County, meaning most people who wanted a job had a job. A lack of available housing and quality child care makes it hard to attract new workers to the area.

Still, nearly 1,400 Northeast Michiganders were out of work.

But employers told News reporters many of those people can’t pass drug tests, aren’t qualified for the available positions, or have too-high expectations for what the job could offer.

Despite the challenges, many employers told The News they’d found a way to make things work. The hospital still treats patients. Manufacturers still produce products. This newspaper still gets produced and printed.

We’re glad to see employers getting creative to overcome a significant economic problem, and we say kudos to them and their current employees for overcoming that challenge and still getting their jobs done.

To those looking for work, we say go ahead and set your bar high, but have realistic expectations about what you should receive in compensation for your qualifications. Entry-level work does not pay exorbitantly.

And stay off drugs, even legal marijuana, for which employers are still allowed to test, and they’re still allowed to deny employment to drug users.

Finally, we know state and local policymakers are hard at work trying to tackle the housing and child care problems. We wish them godspeed, because those thorny issues are ones that need to be solved before we can recruit fresh talent to the region, which many of our employers need.

To read The News’ Progress edition, check out your Wednesday edition of The News (or pick one up at The News offices, 130 Park Place), or visit TheAlpenaNews.com and click on “Progress 2022” in the top right corner.

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