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Industry Talent Councils: Collaboration + Innovation = Solutions

In a state that boasted an estimated employment growth of over 55,000 jobs last year, combined with a low unemployment rate, what can employers do to attract talent? In this region, West Michigan Works! is addressing the employers’ workforce challenges by convening multiple industry talent councils.

What is an industry talent council? It is a group of employers, educators/trainers and workforce experts who collaborate to develop innovative solutions to employers’ talent concerns. In West Michigan, these councils are grouped around industries with strong growth and high demand for talent: advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, construction, health care and information technology.

As a busy professional, you may wonder why it’s worth investing your time in an industry talent council. That’s a fair question. We asked a couple of local professionals who participate in an industry talent council to weigh in.

Lindsey Tilley is an IT communications and marketing lead at Herman Miller. She is also a member of West Michigan Tech Talent (WMTT), the council addressing IT workforce issues. Steve Heethuis is a training director at NN Autocam Precision Components Group. He is a member of Discover Manufacturing, the council focused on advanced manufacturing in West Michigan. Here is what they had to say:

Why are you so involved in your industry’s talent council?

Local IT Professionals participate in certification training organized and hosted by West Michigan Tech Talent

Lindsey: I value so much the connection points that WMTT has provided me across the industry. It is so powerful to have allies/sounding boards who are often in the same position and facing the same challenges. There is also incredible energy that develops when people with common interests rally together towards a common goal.

Steve: Discover Manufacturing acts as a convener for likeminded organizations to share and develop ways to improve talent in West Michigan. I believe that this is an imperative that we need to work together to solve. The talent issues are too big for any one organization to solve alone. Also, working collaboratively allows talent and businesses to be successful.

Some people may be hesitant to add anything else to their busy schedules. Why is an industry talent council worth saying yes to?

Lindsey: Industry talent councils are so valuable because it is a way to step out of my organizational ‘bubble’ to get a better view of the landscape. It is a good way to appreciate the challenges that we have in common and to work toward solutions that might benefit us all. Getting together creates an opportunity to discover synergies that never would emerge if we all remain in our individual silos.

Also, to put it simply, I have met some really wonderful humans as part of this committee, and being a part of a group of people who are dedicated to something bigger than themselves is invigorating.

Steve: Working collectively takes a fraction of the effort going alone requires, yet can have exponential impact. The council shares thoughts, ideas and connections that could take several years to develop. I believe it is the quickest way to get up to speed with the discussion going on between schools, students, parents and advanced manufacturers impacting our community.

What fires you up about your work in the council?

Students tour a local manufacturing facility during Manufacturing Week, organized by Discover Manufacturing

Lindsey: The RESULTS! As a co-leader of the GROW committee one of my very favorite things is being able to engage with students and teachers from West Michigan to share what I have learned about the opportunities that exist in technology. The world of tech is shrouded in so much mystery and it is truly an honor to be a small part of the conversation that helps to pull back the curtain and expose this field to a wider audience. Helping to grow the pool of talent for future generations as young people discover new possibilities is incredibly fulfilling.

Steve: I enjoy the people and ideas that get facilitated through Discover Manufacturing. In many environments our businesses compete against each; but in this space, we have the opportunity to work alongside really talented teams from our region. We all have excellent ideas and initiatives that make our individual companies great, but this group has the opportunity to leave an imprint and legacy with the students and future employees of this region!

Want to learn more about your industry’s talent council or get involved? Contact the sector lead:

Agribusiness: Karrie Brown –
Construction Workforce Development Alliance: Mac Dodds –
West Michigan Health Careers Council: Ally Mills –
West Michigan Tech Talent: Anne Pentiak –
Discover Manufacturing: Jerry Hill –