Three Mondays in Detroit – 3 years in Manufacturing jobs in Michigan
January 2008. – Everyone is looking for jobs in Michigan
If it’s Tuesday, it must be Detroit. In January 2008, 45 year old James Trent was out of work. Laid off by General Motors after ten years, like so many of his friends and former colleagues, he became another addition to spiraling unemployment figures in the Detroit area. Things were going wrong at the Big Three. Across Michigan the real cost of the decline in automotive manufacturing was carried by the growing number of unemployed engineers and designers, with years of engineering experience that were no longer needed in the area. Tied to the area by homes they could not sell, they spent their time searching for elusive opportunities for employment within the shrinking auto industry or looked to find retraining options, that came with no guarantee of work at the other end. Yet all the time, guys like James listened to stories about the overall shortage of engineers in the US market place. In Houston and similar sector strongholds, Designers like James were commanding wage rates up to three times higher than he was used to seeing in Detroit. Everyone was working and companies were desperately seeking solutions to the lack of available engineering talent. He began to realize that it was time to look beyond automotive and possibly beyond Detroit.
January 2009 – Possibilities Detroit Automotive job in Michigan
By January 2009, James had enrolled in the Talascend Global Training Academy. There were risks involved or him. The option was innovative but untested. It seemed like it could be the way back to work he had been looking for, offering retraining for professional designers with the intention of placing them in more buoyant industries, primarily Oil & Gas. It could also be just another waste of time, and with a finite amount of funding to invest from Michigan’s state sponsored programs, he had something to lose.
His training program was a high intensity six forty hour weeks. the syllabus covered Plant Layout Design and PPMS Piping, run in conjunction with the Society for Piping Engineers and Designers and Macomb Community College. The objective was to give James and his classmates the working level of someone with five years direct experience.
January 2010 – Back to work in Detroit
By January 2010, James was back at work. After graduating from the Academy, he worked with recruitment specialists from Talascend who placed him with Marathon Oil in Detroit. James’s twenty years of design experience, and a work ethic made even stronger by his circumstances, were an attractive back-up to the detailed training he had received.
Marathon’s interest really piqued when they saw the curriculum and all the subject matter of the courses,” says James. “They said ‘This is just what we need.’” James’s success is not unique. Of the 40 designers who graduated the Academy over three different classes, twenty percent are now back to work. Several are now working with James at Marathon. There remains a vast potential for Detroit based engineers to bolster the skill shortage in the wider engineering industry. With the rest of the global sector feeling the pinch from retiring baby boomers, low entry to the industry, the pull of the IT sector during the 1990s and many other factors. Michigan can provide a wealth of experienced engineers to plug the gap. Now that Talascend and Marathon have proved that the model works, it’s just a case of finding more companies who see the benefits of hiring people like James. “We have a tremendous wealth of design and engineering experience in the Detroit market,” says Jason Dawson, President of the Academy. “What we need now is hiring companies in other sectors to seriously consider the benefits of employing Academy graduates.
January 2013 – An automotive job industry booming
Five years after James first began speaking to Talascend, the market is changed. The Automotive industry in Detroit has rebounded strongly. In what was for so long a dead spot for manufacturing jobs in Michigan, is resurgent.