Proven Process for Growing Talent in Michigan


"The TPM approach is different than anything I have seen in 30 years of working in the workforce development area."
Now with multiple strategic talent pipelines, Michigan is competing on talent, not for it.

In March of 2015, the stars were aligning in Michigan as government industry and educational leaders recognized the need to collaborate in developing sustainable career pathways in skilled trades, including Michigan’s energy sector, led by the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium (MEWDC). With a booming industry, and over 92,000 people working in the energy sector in our state, we faced a daunting rate of retirement that looked to cut in half our energy workforce, which had created and sustained this prosperity. Through a proactive initiative, we hoped to change the trajectory of the industry in Michigan, and we are well on our way.

The MEWDC energy industry leaders recognized a need for a clear, defined pathway for career and technical students to make their way into this in-demand, yet often invisible, field. There was a need for qualified candidates to fill an increasing number of job openings, and an aging workforce that soon would be retiring, creating even more highly technical positions. The result of our work together was an initiative that addressed those needs and established a plan to close the skills gap through standard training and education for potential employees – a career pathway that didn’t yet exist at the state or national level.

A monumental task, we were excited to join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Initiative in 2015 to turn the initiative plans into reality.

The Necessary Structure to Execute Efficiently

The TPM Program provided a structure that included all parties at the table from industry, government, and education with the clearly defined actions that allowed us to execute quickly and efficiently. The results were exactly what our energy sector needed to see. In seven months we identified qualification similarities, developed standard educational programs, and were successful in implementing the 17th career cluster in Energy with the approval of the Michigan Department of Education. This provides our education system the opportunity to provide programs with a consistent curriculum recognized by energy employers. For the educators, the demand data provided by industry gave them comfort that the individuals in these programs would gain employment. 

Soon, word of this success spread and what started as a one-industry sector initiative to kick start effective training practices became a statewide solution to skills gap challenges across all industries.

Increasing skilled trades and technical training has been a major priority of Michigan businesses in recent years. Participants of the TPM Academy use a variety of methods to study solutions to chronic skills gaps, collect data on job needs, and use supply chain management strategies and logic when discovering solutions and discussing how to accurately measure success. These principles are industry agnostic. What worked for the energy sector in Michigan can also work in other industry sectors.

"The TPM approach is different than anything I have seen in 30 years of working in the workforce development area. It truly applies business principles to the talent gap," said Consumers Energy's Sharon Miller, talent architect project manager and MEWDC co-chair.

Looking Ahead

William Palmer, DTE Energy

William Palmer, DTE Energy
William Palmer, DTE Energy

For the next challenge in growing the energy talent pipeline, the MEWDC is working with high schools and community colleges across Michigan to implement the approved statewide standards. Currently, there are five high schools and community colleges offering the Energy Industry Fundamentals, a set of employer-recognized credentials.

Building on this foundation, we at DTE Energy have created a talent pipeline with local high schools as well. Through the DTE Summer Youth Program, students from the Detroit Public School Community District have the opportunity to intern at DTE during the summer. Students gain experience in various positions working with lineworkers, in the warehouse, or in administrative roles.

William Palmer is one of the 60 Summer Youth Program students we hired this past summer.

“I had a really great experience," he said. "What made me love it so much was the people at their jobs, they love their jobs. And that made me love the job, too.”

Now with multiple ways to grow talent in the state of Michigan, other states are taking notice and recognizing the power of a state that can compete on talent, instead of for it. Learn more about the growing TPM Academy network of states implementing TPM principles to help them solve the challenges they face in today’s rapidly shifting economy.