Skip to main content
Email Subscription

To sign up for email updates from Macomb County or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your email address. If you would like to subscribe for text alerts please select Text Updates in the drop-down menu.

Planning and Economic Development

Talking Talent

November 2022



Message from Jennifer Weot





Welcome to the fall edition of Talking Talent. Since our last issue went out in August, I’ve been getting acclimated to my new role as a senior outreach specialist within Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. Most of my time is spent connecting with businesses who have expressed interest in our “Fueling the Talent Pipeline” initiative. They all have the same goal: To ensure they have qualified, interested people to fill their future workforce needs. So I’m sharing one potential way to make this happen.

I recently went to The Academies of Nashville Study Visit, a conference where participants explore and learn about the strategies, structures and tactics that are producing real progress in high school reform in Nashville, and I was so impressed. Through partnerships with local businesses, the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) system has not only helped students with future career decisions, they’ve spurred economic growth in the city.

Here’s how it all started. In 2005, MNPS was in serious trouble. They had a graduation rate of 58 percent, a suspension rate of 41 percent and the State of Tennessee was about to take over. The district decided they needed to do something, so they joined forces with Ford Next Generation Learning – an “academy-based” program where schools partner with surrounding businesses to help in the education of students. Each high school in the Nashville district has various “career academies” that the students choose to pursue based on their interests. The academies then partner with local businesses in that specific field. The businesses support in any way they can. Options vary from industry tours to job shadows to internships and much more.


It has been a huge success. Now the MNPS has a graduation rate of 81.8 percent, a suspension rate of 11 percent and an attendance rate of 88.7 percent. The district also has more than 400 business partners and the Academies of Nashville has been recognized by the White House as a national high school transformation model.

For nearly 20 years, school districts all over the world have switched to this Ford NGL model of education, including two right here in Macomb County in Romeo and Center Line. Partnering with these districts is a great way for you to expose students (your future workforce) to your career field and to show them what it takes to do what you do. Contact me at and I can help you make the connection.

In closing, I’d just like to say that I wish they would have had this type of education system when I was in school. It’s an incredible model and something that will make our workforce stronger.


Vote in Banksgiving and help Macomb MARZ win a grant


First State Bank is a leader when it comes to partnerships and programming that benefit our community. So we were happy to see the return of their annual Banksgiving program, and even more thrilled to see Macomb MARZ announced as one of the finalists in the running for a $5,000 or $10,000 grant! 

As background, Macomb MARZ (Macomb Automation and Robotics Zone) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to enhance the social, academic and educational environment of Macomb County and the State of Michigan through support of FIRST Robotics and similar STEM-related programming. In doing this, the Center will provide students with the skills and education necessary to be truly marketable for the next generation of high-tech careers in aerospace, defense and advanced manufacturing.

MARZ is one of several organizations in the running to win a grant through Banksgiving. And the best part? The public decides who wins the grants! The top vote-getters in each category will receive a $5,000 donation, and the organization that receives the most votes overall will be awarded a $10,000 donation. So vote for MARZ now through November 25 and help it win funding that will advance its STEM cause.

To learn more about the finalists or to cast your vote, visit


Last call: Get involved with the Explore Careers in Manufacturing & Technology event

Local manufacturers have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of students who will be attending the Explore Careers in Manufacturing & Technology event Thursday, Dec. 1 at the Sports and Expo Center in Warren.

Students in grades 6-12 and their parents or guardians are invited to attend the event, which will take place between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Center is located at 14500 E.12 Mile Road in Warren. It is presented by Macomb Community College along with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) partners. 

Through local businesses participating in the event, students will have the opportunity to: 

  • Learn about job skills that are in high demand
  • Hear from recent graduates who found good-paying career employment
  • Meet local businesses and learning who employers are hiring
  • Discover the career pathway that’s right for you
  • Learn about apprenticeship programs, including the Michigan Apprenticeship Program Plus (MAP+)
  • Explore apprenticeship, internships and work-based learning 

There is no cost to attend the program. Interested students can register here

Additionally, if your company would like to participate in the event, get in touch by calling (586) 445-7117.


Q&A: RCO Engineering discusses their future talent strategy


RCO Engineering offers manufacturing services for the automotive, aerospace and defense industries from its Roseville-based facility. Founded in 1973, the company lists its mission as remaining a one-stop-shop for prototyping and low volume production, and they achieve this with an army of creative designers and engineers, accomplished prototype builders, testing experts, and comprehensive production specialists. Attracting and retaining this type of talent can be a challenge, but RCO is a prime example of a company prioritizing workforce development. And in 2022, that work was recognized when they were awarded the Trailblazer of Future Talent recognition at the Macomb Business Awards.

Now they’ve answered 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: Tours. From a high level overview and familiarity aspect, RCO Engineering offers on-site tours to students attending local high schools and colleges. We believe that virtual tours are helpful for familiarity, but nothing replaces an experience. For instance, you don’t pick up the feel of the shop floor environment in a video. Then there’s job shadowing. Our designers and engineers are always happy to have a student visitor job shadow. Students can check out the environment and get a sense of the kinds of problems that are presented to our design and engineering teams. We also offer apprenticeships. RCO Engineering pays for the courses for students following a career in plastic injection molding and sheet metal while offering full-time employment to practice the skills that are being learned. And finally, work. For students ready to work, RCO Engineering has paid jobs for students in a manufacturing setting. From summer and part-time internships, entry level design and engineering positions and support positions in the office, every job is a learning opportunity.  


Q: What is the benefit of this work?

A: You don’t know what you don’t know. Generally students have a narrative or expectation of what the working world looks like and how they fit into it. Once they are on the RCO campus, they have their own experience working at one of our many positions. We look at these experiences as “teaching moments” to guide our new associates along their career paths.

Student employees work right along with the rest of the team, and play an integral part of the success of the company through their contribution. They can decide what they like and don’t like, if they want to stay with RCO or what they want to try next in their career path.

For full-time student employees RCO offers tuition assistance. We believe that when our employees are learning they are excited to bring that knowledge into the workplace and share their growth.


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

A: Absolutely. We have hired a number of associates through our high school co-op opportunities, apprenticeships and classroom visits. We are excited when a person who is new to manufacturing embraces everything that RCO can offer them in developing their careers.


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

A: RCO Engineering was founded 49 years ago. At that time, many high schools had skilled trades curriculums designed for the student upon graduation to be fully capable of working straight out of school. Our leadership recognizes the need to adapt to the changing high school and college classrooms we have today. With skilled trades coming back to the high school classrooms, there is also the technology upgrade that comes with it. RCO has made many upgrades as well, and taken an active approach to how we meaningfully interact and engage with students to inspire questions and pique their interest through tours and job shadowing experiences. 


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

A: With these kinds of programs, your benefit is a direct relation to the amount of effort you put into the process. RCO is uniquely positioned to offer these kinds of opportunities over a greater manufacturing landscape because of the amount of diversity in our business model.  


Thank you to the RCO team, including Julie Fathbruckner, account manager, and Cliff Weyhing, manager of human resources, for responding to this questionnaire.


Manufacturing Day is another success


It was another successful year for Manufacturing Day in Macomb County, with more than 1,600 student participants, 54 host sites and 70 tours.

As traditional manufacturing has evolved to advanced manufacturing, Macomb County has been at the forefront of ensuring the workforce has the enhanced skill level needed to compete in a globally competitive marketplace. The County has seen a 31.8 percent job growth in advanced manufacturing since 2010. Manufacturing Day, which grew into Manufacturing Week this year, and the efforts made by our businesses, have created opportunities for students to see industry in action. And that has helped fuel the talent pipeline locally.

The post event surveys that students are submitting are returning positive responses. The consensus is that they loved the event, and many are considering the manufacturing field for their future careers.

Nearly 82 percent of the students indicated they found the tour very interesting or extremely interesting. And after experiencing their tour, more than 48 percent said they could definitely see themselves working in manufacturing, with an additional 40 percent saying that maybe they could find themselves in a manufacturing career.

As planning now begins for the 10th annual Manufacturing Day in 2023, Macomb County wants to say thank you to all of the host sites and sponsors for making this such a successful event. We hope to see you all again next year.


Connect with us

Find Planning and Economic Development on Facebook.

Find Planning and Economic Development on LinkedIn.