Help Wanted: West Michigan employers grapple with shrinking labor pool, skills gap

Put a group of local executives together to talk about their hiring needs and it probably won’t be long before the phrases start to fly.

“Talent gap.”

“Skills gap.”

“Talent drought.”

While the words they use may vary, local employers are nearly universal in calling it a “problem” that could stall West Michigan’s economic growth.

Last month, for example, a group of local manufacturing executives voiced their concerns at a breakfast event hosted by the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

The group, including executives from ADAC Automotive, Port City Group, Eagle Alloy andSwanson Pickle Co., talked extensively about the lack of qualified talent in the region and the long-term sustainability of the Muskegon area’s talent pool.

“On a day-to-day and month-to-month basis, it’s the technical talent drought,” said Muskegon panelist Jim Teets, president of ADAC Automotive. “We have a very difficult time replacing engineers and hiring new staff, and we need new talent like that all the time.”

The talent shortage isn’t just about technical talent either, according to John Workman, president of Eagle Alloy. Attracting qualified, entry-level talent has proven more difficult of late, he said, and could curtail future growth at the manufacturer of steel castings.

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