For the first time in recent history, members reported difficulty finding qualified talent as their top concern, surpassing the cost of health care which had been the top issue for the past four years. Seventy-two percent reported difficulty finding qualified applicants, up from 51% in 2014. Digging a little deeper, the availability of skilled labor and general talent retention were noted as two of the top obstacles to business growth.
Talent is not a new initiative for the Chamber, but there is added urgency to addressing our region’s immediate talent shortages while also ensuring we have a qualified workforce for the future. In the survey, members identified the most difficult positions to fill, highlighting positions from skilled trades, to STEM careers, to positions that require advanced degrees.
The Chamber’s advocacy efforts are linked directly to what we are hearing from our members – fighting for programs and initiatives at the State level to address our immediate and future talent needs.
- Skilled Trades Training Program (Going Pro): The Chamber is advocating for a significant increase of funding for this program which provides grants to employers to upskill their current workforce or new hires. The Chamber is pleased to see Governor Snyder’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget recommendation included a $10 million increase, and will be asking the Legislature to confirm this recommendation. These grant dollars may be used in a variety of fields, including professional trades, information technology, health care and other high-demand jobs.
- Career and Technical Education Equipment Upgrades: To address talent development, the Chamber is also supportive of Governor Snyder’s recommendation of $20 million to support (CTE) Career Technology Education program equipment upgrades.
- 21st Century Skills/High School Graduation Flexibility: The Chamber has been working alongside the West Michigan Talent Triangle for the passage of House Bill 4114, which seeks to provide high schoolers greater flexibility in the courses they must take to graduate. This bill would allow students the flexibility to take rigorous courses in computer science, coding, CTE, foreign language or the arts.
- Michigan State Standards: There have been some recent efforts to repeal Michigan’s State Standards, but the Chamber is fiercely advocating alongside our community education partners for their continuation. These standards set the foundation of what Michigan’s student should know at each grade level, and are a critical component to ensure our students can graduate college and career ready.
- Early Childhood Education: The Chamber is a vocal supporter of Michigan’s funding for early childhood education and is asking the Legislature to continue the funding to ensure Michigan is a no-wait state and our children can start their education with high quality programming.
Every year, the Chamber conducts an annual survey of members to better understand the issues you’re facing. Nearly 600 members responded to the survey this year with more than two-thirds of the responses from small and medium-sized businesses.
More than 93% of Chamber members reported a favorable or very favorable perception of West Michigan’s business climate. Our community and region has seen great growth coming out of the recession, but we are not without some challenges.
Want to read the Chamber membership survey results? Please visit grandrapids.org/government-affairs-survey
Questions, comments or ideas of how to address talent needs? Please contact Joshua Lunger at or 616.771.0336.