Connect the Dots

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Trisha Dunham
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Decreasing Talent Pool? Now, That’s Scary!

Handmade airplanes flew as water poured through pumps and giant Jenga crashed to the ground. What seems like a day of fun for area middle school students at MiCareerQuest Southwest doubled as a glimpse into future career options, as well as a chance for area companies to influence future leaders.

“We’re going to be hiring some of these kids, hopefully in the future. We need to get them intrigued in what we do for the potential that they’ll develop an interest in Stryker,” said Brandon Housen, manufacturing process lead at Stryker.

The fight for talent is not one that Stryker is in alone. With 12,000 current job openings, and more to come as baby boomers continue to retire, the demand for well-qualified, educated talent is rising in Southwest Michigan.

“We have an aging workforce,” said Ronnie Rodgers, line worker in charge at Consumers Energy. “We need to get young people interested in these types of careers.”

Over the two-day period, more than 5,000 eighth graders interacted with over 70 businesses during the hands-on career readiness event held October 29-30 at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center. The event’s theme “Connect the dots” highlighted the connection from the classroom learning to the real world, but Patrick Johnson, eighth grade teacher at Northwest Middle School in Battle Creek said the event is more than that.

“Students are exposed to different careers and applications. With the hands-on activities, they become interested in things that they’ve never seen before,” said Johnson.

Not just another field trip, students’ time at MiCareerQuest this week was spent positively as local school districts and businesses came together to strengthen the regional talent pipeline.

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