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News & Press: FOCUS

Winning the War for Talent

Monday, April 1, 2019  
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Michigan is at a talent pipeline crossroads. Projections from the state of Michigan show the state’s rapidly aging workforce will experience a labor gap of more than 811,000 job openings through 2024. Our state’s employers can’t fill jobs fast enough because of a sufficiently skilled workforce. Locally, surveys by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce reveal that Chamber members feel their ability to attract and retain talent is the number one challenge they face now and into the future.

To better position Michigan in the war for talent, the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan (TED) recently launched a three-year campaign to help the state attract and retain talent. Lansing-based Güd Marketing was brought in to lead the state’s talent recruitment efforts. Güd was selected over many larger agencies from around the country.

Güd Marketing owners Lisa Crumley (left) and Deb Horak (right).

“We are very proud of the work that our team did to bring that contract to Lansing,” said Lisa Crumley who co-owns Güd Marketing with Deb Horak.

TED chose Güd Marketing to develop and implement an integrated marketing, advertising, public relations and social media campaign that will include: improving the public’s perception, awareness and visibility of career opportunities in professional trades in Michigan; establishing a perception of Michigan as a desirable place to live, work and play; promoting Michigan as a global leader in talent retention, growth and attraction; and positioning Michigan as a home for high-tech industry and career opportunities.

“The people at Güd really have become part of our team. Besides being crazy creative, they bring fun and pragmatic ideas to the table that helps us meet our talent goals,” said Sammie Lukaskiewicz, TED’s deputy director, marketing communications. “The team at Güd has extensive government experience, which helps me both professionally and personally. More than anything, Güd is not just our agency, they are our partner – and I really like working with them.”

One of the major campaign strategies Güd intends to employ will be very targeted messaging and media outreach and placement to narrowly defined audience groups.

“For Michigan to be successful, we have to reach a multitude of people where they are,” said Crumley.

Target audiences will include people as young as junior high school students who will fill the talent pipeline for the long term, high school and community college students, veterans who have returned to Michigan and previously incarcerated individuals looking to return to the workforce. The campaign will also target employees who are dissatisfied with their current career and displaced workers.

Güd's team brainstorming ideas for the state's three-year campaign to attract and retain talent.

“Our strategy is to learn about who they are very deeply in order to develop messaging that resonates with them and to understand how to reach them as they are forming their opinions and making their decisions,” said Crumley. “Parents, teachers and guidance counselors will also be part of that strategy.”

The media outreach will include every type of media platform including digital, social, outdoor, television, radio, events and content marketing, public relations and earned media. As with all of their work, Güd will employ a data driven approach.

“Using data to understand our audiences and develop the right strategy to connect our message to those audiences and the research will provide that path for us,” said Horak.

Part of the challenge for the talent campaign is a lack of awareness about professional trades opportunities. Research in 2018 shows that high school and young adults are three times more likely than their parents to say they are not sure what an apprenticeship is. Additionally, most parents tend to steer their children down the path of a four-year degree. To address those challenges, TED has created a groundbreaking campaign, Going Pro, to elevate the perception of professional trades and showcase numerous high-paying, high demand career options from welders, millwrights and HVAC mechanics to massage therapists, medical sonographers and web developers. Average annual wages for full-time workers in professional trades is $51,000.

Part of Güd’s campaign will be to focus on people who influence students, including parents, teachers and guidance counselors so they better understand what professional trades offer students, so they can help those students map their own path, whether it would be to a four-year degree, a two-year degree or an apprenticeship.

Güd’s headquarters in Old Town provides a perfect environment for open space collaboration.

“Each child has different interests and we need to match those interests to the opportunities that exist,” said Horak. “That reinforces that there are multiple paths to career success.”

During a recent roundtable on professional trades hosted by the Lansing State Journal, State Representative Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) noted that parent’s attitudes towards professional trades may shift as they consider the economics, i.e. trading in high debt associated with four-year degrees for professional trades programs often paid for by future employers.

“Parents want the best for their children, so when you start talking about professional trades -— the no-debt degree — and start looking at that opportunity…” said Frederick, chair of the House Committee on Workforce and Talent development. “Maybe that’s a way that we can get back to parents who might have that caution about looking at these pathways is that your child could have a future and not have that debt. It’s really up there in people’s minds right now.”

The TED campaign will also seek to build awareness of Michigan as a desirable place to live work and play. Research has shown that people will choose Michigan for jobs they desire.

“But they stay here for quality of life reasons,” said Crumley. “Affordable housing, having recreation close by, the Great Lakes, culture and a diverse economy.”

The talent campaign also seeks to position Michigan as a home for career opportunities for the high-tech industry. The state features some not-so-well-known advantages in that area.

“We’ve done a lot of research in this area. And what we found is that a lot of our college graduates – including those who are from Michigan – just don’t know about the opportunities we have here for careers,” said Lukaskiewicz. “They don’t know what businesses and industries we have in our state, including all the tech companies that are here or the tech opportunities that are here. Think of this: If you’re a tech person, why not consider a career in the auto industry? There are more than 10 million lines of code in a new automobile – THAT’S technology! So when a professional or a recent college graduate is thinking of career searches in another state, they should look no further than Michigan.”

“We’re not used to talking about ourselves in a way that showcases the mobility and driverless cars, the rocket science, aerospace, design, cutting edge furniture and the new Detroit Hub being built with Shinola,” said Michelle Ntoko, Güd account manager. “People outside of Michigan don’t know that those opportunities exist.”

Though the campaign is fairly new, the state is beginning to see some upticks. During the first five years of The Going Pro Talent Fund, the legislature has appropriated $72 million resulting in 70,000 individuals completing training. Over 2,200 companies have participated in the Talent Fund. Career and Technical Education programs added more than 1,300 students in the 2017-18 school year.

The campaign is already starting to create a buzz. While the talent war is in its infancy, people in many different walks of life are understanding that the talent gap is a real issue. Parents, educators and businesses are coming together to work towards the same goal. For generations, professional trades have been treated as inferior. Winning the War for Talent will require that we level the playing field. Succeeding is vital if we want to keep Michigan’s economy healthy, strong and growing. Lansing-based Güd Marketing will be at the heart of that effort.

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