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Economy & competitive position

More money. More jobs?

Lisa Baragar Katz is executive director of the Workforce Intelligence Network, a consortium of seven Michigan Works! agencies and eight community college, formed to create a talent system that provides regional employers with the talent they need for success.

Lisa Baragar Katz is executive director of the Workforce Intelligence Network, a consortium of seven Michigan Works! agencies and eight community college, formed to create a talent system that provides regional employers with the talent they need for success.

Southeast Michigan is poised to get a share of $1.3 billion in U.S. economic development grants. Lisa Baragar Katz, executive director of the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) for Southeastern Michigan, a consortium of Michigan Works! agencies and community colleges formed to create a talent system for employers, tells Bridge how the money should be spent.

Bridge: Southeast Michigan is one of 12 communities eligible to get millions in federal funding to increase manufacturing. How did this happen?

Lisa Baragar Katz: The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership has access to $1.3 billion in funding from 11 different federal agencies. Michigan is one of 12 regions to win a 2-year designation (renewals are possible), an advantage over other cities applying for the grants. The application was a show of unprecedented collaboration between counties in Southeastern Michigan.

When could we see investment dollars flow into Michigan and what could this grant program mean for Southeastern Michigan – as many as 9,000 new jobs?

Yes. We’re not sure but we could start to see investment next fall. The application included proposals to develop vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity and other non-automotive industries as well as blight reduction, roads and talent development.

So this is a broad plan and could be an opportunity to get federal funds to invest in developing new industries?

Yes. Some of these new emerging industries deal with vehicle efficiency and safety in the automotive industry. For example, alternative propulsion, different fuels, use of new materials, sensors. Connectivity also is an emerging industry. But it still hasn’t been fully defined – what does connectivity mean?

So-called “Eureka!” or “disruptive technologies” (those that transform the economy and everyday life such as the Internet, for example) are interesting but only if they can answer, “What’s next, how can this change our culture?”

The unemployment rate in Southeast Michigan saw a down-tick this year. Why?

Michigan’s 8.5% unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2014 is down from 10% in 2013. For the first time since 2008 in a first quarter, the number of jobs is up. What’s different is, it is a reflection of more jobs, not attrition or people stopping looking for, retiring or moving out of state.

The top five jobs that employers are advertising for on the web are retail, software developers, sales representatives, registered nurses and trailer/truck drivers. Michigan saw the most growth in tractor trailer and truck driver jobs.

I expect continued growth because of job demand as shown in online job listings.

What’s a big workforce problem that needs more attention from officials and the public?

Michigan needs to address training if we want to be successful. Career readiness is a big story. Looking at the WIN data on youth employment, there is an inverse relationship between the percentage of older workers in the workforce increasing and the percentage of youth employed decreasing. A person with a bachelor’s degree and no experience is harder to get employed. There’s a skills gap.

Who should be leading the discussion on job training and career readiness?

It needs all hands on deck – educators from all levels, everyone. The question is – is the business community poised to lead the legislature on education?

3 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Nick

    I’m afraid that throwing money at this problem is not the sole solution. The quick fix and short sighted goals and objectives
    have not been the answer and will never fix this problem. Long term goals and dedicated changes in our culture are the real
    answers. Changes in parental attitudes and involvement plus a new found respect for educators is a start. Looking to solve
    the problem of poverty in our urban areas is also a real challenge that must be addressed. So don’t look for the money to be the answer. Its only made certain persons and enterprises very wealthy!

  2. Duane

    It is back to THE answer of spend other people’s money and do not care if it works.

    Neither Bridge nor Ms. Bragar Katz shows any interest in program accountability. There simply seems to be more interest in spending the money and none in determining if it is providing expected value.

    It seems we have had many other such government funded (spending other people’s money) with a similar purpose. I wonder if Ms. Baragar Katz has ask any question about their results? I wonder if she has asked anyone why the succeeded or failed? I wonder if she has asked any of the employers in the state/southeastern region if they would have any accountability measure they would use when spending this amount of money. I wonder if she askes any questions then when can the spending begin.

    Maybe I am too old not to be a skeptic, but whether it is the last 4 years or the last 20 years I have yet to see those interested in spending other people’s money show any interest in accountability of the effectiveness/value of that spending.

    My questions would have differed from Ms. Pratt Dawsey, I would ask about the purpose for the spending, what the expect impact/results are expected to be, how will the performance of the program be measured (how frequently), how will successes be leveraged, how will adjustments be made to the program? I was taught it is about results and the ability to demonstrate those results so others can benefit/use them. I have been in the positon of spending other people’s money (my employer) and those were issues I had to address.

  3. Ida Byrd-Hill

    Our nonprofit, Uplift, Inc., is hosting an event, Automation Workz, September 6, 2014 at the Comau Innovation Campus. Our goal is to expose parents to the new automated factories, and advanced manufacturing jobs. Parents can influence their students to acquire the skills necessary for these jobs earning $40,000 per year. Invite families to attend. Register at

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