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Planning and Economic Development

Talking Talent

June 2023


Message from Jennifer Weot





Welcome to the time of year that makes me happy! I am typing this with a smile on my face. Living in Macomb County, the spring and summer seasons are the best, with so much to do both on water and on land.

With the school districts getting ready to end their academic year, there are lots of students looking for summer work or even better, full time positions!. As all industries struggle to find talent, the Macomb Intermediate School District hosted an event titled “Operation Senior” on May 18 and May 19, and it was open to all seniors in the county. Businesses who registered had the opportunity to recruit for FT/PT positions, internships, summer jobs, etc. So if your business attended this event, I hope you had success. If your business was not aware of the event but would like to participate next year, please reach out to Shannon Williams with the ISD at

Although we all want the summer months to linger, fall will be here before we know it. Students will be back in class and there will be a new group of seniors and underclassmen thinking about what they are going to do with their future. We already have many events planned for the 2023-24 school year (some are listed in the articles below) and the school districts in Macomb County are looking for business partners to help introduce career options to their students. If you would like to get involved in our Fueling the Talent Pipeline initiative and help introduce your career paths to the future workforce, it starts by completing this form. It’s that easy.


Jennifer Weot


MiCareerQuest Southeast seeking exhibitors


We are pleased to share that MiCareerQuest Southeast will return to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi on Tuesday, November 14. This is the region's largest interactive career exploration event for high school students. It exposes them to a broad range of exciting, rewarding career opportunities as they prepare for their futures.

Not familiar? We’ve got the details:

  • Thousands of high school students from Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Wayne, Washtenaw and Livingston counties will be meeting with working professionals who have built successful careers in a variety of fields. In addition, young people will have the opportunity to touch, feel and work with the equipment, tools and technology used by people every day in a broad range of in-demand jobs.
  • The goal is to connect classroom learning with real-world jobs and their requirements. Students also will discover engaging workplace opportunities, such as internships, job shadowing and more.
  • The last event was held in 2019 and it was a major success. More than 9,000 high school students and chaperones from around the region got a hands-on look at 200 in-demand occupations. The day was made possible by 1,000 professionals from 115 companies, educational institutions and labor organizations that worked with the students. 

“Those that have been involved with this event in the past are so excited to see it return,” said Jennifer Weot, senior outreach specialist, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. “They literally say it is the best day of the year!”

There is no cost to exhibitors and registration is currently taking place until the end of June. The only requirement is that your exhibit must be interactive, because students are inspired when they are physically involved. All told, we highly recommend this opportunity, as it’s a great way to get exposure to our future workforce.

For more information, reach out to Kristi Arnone at or at (248) 858-5207. Or check out this video to learn more.  


Q&A: KUKA Systems North America discusses their future talent strategy


KUKA Systems North America is a leading international supplier of design and assembly tooling automation for industrial and automotive applications. Based in Germany and established in Sterling Heights in 1981, KUKA employs more than 1,500 local workers. The company has long been committed to fueling the talent pipeline, working to build connections with high schools and colleges through Manufacturing Day, AUTOSteam Days, student visits, co-op experiences and summer internship opportunities. KUKA has also created two successful in-house training programs - including Kickstart Academy and the PLC Programming Academy. Notably, nearly 200 individuals have completed the programs.  

For these reasons, KUKA was recently awarded the Trailblazer of Future Talent recognition at the 2023 Macomb Business Awards. So we asked Jennifer Husby, vice president / head of human resources – Americas region for KUKA, to answer several questions about their talent strategy so you can learn from their experience. 

Q: Your organization provides workplace experience to young people (high school/college) interested in manufacturing. What types of programming/activities do you have in place?

A: KUKA designed a program to open the door and encourage young talent to experience the skilled trade positions that keep the automation and production industry moving forward. KUKA’s Kickstart Academy is an 18-week on-the-job paid training program for high school graduates. The first 12 weeks includes a basic introduction to all three primary skilled trades (Electrician, Pipefitter, Machine Builder) and focuses on the essential skills required to be successful in each job. The second six weeks allows them to dedicate their focus on the skilled trade they enjoyed the most. This phase provides a deeper dive into the essential duties of the job. Each phase includes hands-on practical experience and mentoring by the KUKA team. These critical positions follow the installation of equipment during all phases from build within a KUKA facility to tear down and install at a customer plant. Upon successful completion of the 18-week program, apprentices graduate and begin their career as a valued KUKA team member. 

Q: What is the benefit of this work?

A: These positions are vital to the success of our business and our industry. An in-house training program assures that our new employees have learned the skills and processes necessary to meet the expectations of our customers. It also provides a supportive learning environment which allows the young talent to assimilate into our company culture and values faster.  These jobs are great entry-level positions into a high-wage, high-skill, high-demand area. There is also great opportunity for career growth and longevity.

Q: Have you hired any young people who have gone through your work experience programming?

A: Over 50% of apprentices continue today as regular full-time KUKA employees.


Q: Have you encountered any challenges in this effort? If so, how did you work around them?

A: We’ve had some challenges at the beginning. One example is the schedule. We originally had apprentices start at 8 a.m., rather than the standard 6 a.m. manufacturing starting time. We thought the earlier start would “scare off” some potential candidates. We found, however, that upon completion of the program some of our program graduates were not able to make that adjustment and couldn’t meet the work schedule expectations as a regular full-time employee. We adjusted and now start immediately with the 6 a.m. schedule. The change has resulted in greater retention of our apprentices and has had no negative impact on our applicant pool; in fact, since the schedule expectations are clearer at the start of the recruiting process, candidates have the correct mindset from Day 1 and integrate into the team immediately.  

Another challenge we had early in the program was bringing in too many apprentices at one time. Open and honest conversations with our plant managers and supervisors helped us understand that starting with a smaller group for each program period allowed our internal mentors and coaches more one-on-one time to train.  This created a more positive experience for all parties. 

Last challenge was recognizing who within our internal team were the best mentors and coaches. We had to identify a few new core competencies within our existing manufacturing workforce. Some of our most skilled employees quickly proved to also be effective trainers while continuing to focus on our customer expectations and project timing requirements.  

Q: Would you recommend this type of approach to other companies/organizations?

A: Definitely. It allows companies to develop new talent by providing opportunities for people who have an interest in the trades but didn’t know how or where to start. We recognized from the beginning that not everyone would stick with KUKA or the trades, but we have found and helped develop some great new talent to add to our workforce. It is also very rewarding for our internal team to share their passion for their work with the young people in our community.  Nothing better than working for a company you love, doing a job you enjoy….and sharing that excitement.

Pictured: One of the groups with their supervisors/coaches at the Sterling Heights facility. And apprentices at a facility that won a safety and environmental award.


Plans announced for 10th annual Manufacturing Day, host sites and sponsors needed


Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) has announced the return of Manufacturing Day, which this year, will be celebrated for an entire week as MFG Day Week. Running Oct. 2-6, local high school students will have the opportunity to tour advanced manufacturing facilities and learn more about the many interesting and well-paying jobs the industry has to offer.

“We hope to connect classrooms with careers and to inspire our future workforce,” said Vicky Rowinski, director, MCPED. “Ultimately, our goal is to have 2,000 students join us from all 27 Macomb County high schools. It’s a big lift, but with our partners, host sites and sponsors, we know it’s possible. Because over the last nine years, we’ve had over 14,000 students take part in Manufacturing Day.”

MCPED is currently seeking interested host sites and sponsors for the weeklong event. Interested parties can choose the day and time for their involvement, which gives them a chance to promote their companies and interact with young people interested in manufacturing. Those students receive a 90-120 minute guided tour and some combination of the following:

  • Briefing by a company leader who provides an overview of the company, the type of manufacturing they do and the customers they serve as well as info about employment opportunities.
  • Smaller sub-tours that highlight different work areas and careers
  • Opportunities for students to talk with employees and see the product life cycle in action 
  • Opportunities for students to see and touch the machinery, tools and products that are a part of the industrial workplace

These experiences help the students better understand what a career in advanced manufacturing might look like. Several participating companies have even hired previous Manufacturing Day attendees that were interested in the field.

“We’ve seen real connections come out of our Manufacturing Day events,” Rowinski said. “And given current workforce challenges, like talent shortages and other issues, our program is especially relevant. We’re helping create a pipeline that can supply workers and solve real problems facing our local businesses.”

Companies interested in participating in the 2023 celebration can visit our Manufacturing Day page to learn more and to sign up.


Macomb County hosts Romeo students for job shadow event


Macomb County Planning and Economic Development proudly organized job shadows for students from the Academies of Romeo in March 2023. Around 45 young people visited the County and toured a variety of departments, including MCPED, the Board of Commissioners and the Office of the Public Defender, among others. The students got to learn from different professionals, ask questions and see a real work day. It was a fantastic experience and another great example of our Fueling the Talent Pipeline initiative in action. 

Keep reading to learn more about job shadows and to learn how you can get involved for the next school year. 

What is a job shadow?  

Typically, a job shadow involves a pair of students visiting your workplace to observe people working at jobs that are of interest to them. Depending on the program, students must spend between three to four hours on a job site, typically during normal school hours.

What should I expect?

Depending on the business, location and observed job, attending student(s) gain insights by observing a person on the job so that they can see what a day looks like. Or, you might opt to allow students to interact with other jobs within a career path at your workplace. It is very beneficial to allow the student(s) an opportunity to ask questions about what they see.

Depending on the program, you may also be asked to complete minimal paperwork to certify that the student participated. 

What career pathways are of interest to students at this time? 

  • Health care (all disciplines)
  • Hotel chain management/hospitality
  • Engineering
  • Business owner/entrepreneur
  • Hair salon
  • Computer science/cyber security
  • Dentistry
  • Robotics
  • Social work
  • Video production
  • Marketing/social media/graphic design
  • Finance
  • Veterinary 

Job shadow hosts will be needed for the 2023-2024 school year. Please complete this quick form and we will get you connected with the program of your choice. Additional questions? Contact Jennifer Weot at 


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