Michigan Works: Many job fields seeking workers

Dan Chalk | chalk@mdn.net | June 11, 2020

While Michigan’s unemployment rate remains high, there is some good news for job seekers, according to Kristen Wenzel, chief operating officer of Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works, which serves Bay, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties.

“We have a lot of employees that are looking for assistance right now,” Wenzel said. “We have employers working with our business services team every day that have a need for talent now.”

Those employers are from the fields of health care, construction, landscaping, restaurants and hospitality, among others, Wenzel said.

“There are a lot of outdoor (industries) that normally would have hired much earlier in the spring but were delayed because of (coronavirus shutdowns) and are now seeking workers,” Wenzel said. “Jobs in construction and landscaping are readily available, as are restaurant and hospitality jobs as (those businesses) reopen their doors. We’re posting new (job) opportunities on a regular basis.”

Wenzel also emphasized that GLB Michigan Works is not an unemployment office. Its website says that its mission is “assisting employers in finding and retaining qualified employees and assuring that the labor force meets the needs of employers.”

“We’re receiving a lot of calls (from people who have lost their jobs), but we are not the unemployment office,” Wenzel said.

“(However), we work very closely with the (Unemployment Insurance Agency) to connect individuals (with their office) when we can. And we work with job seekers to connect them with other opportunities,” she continued. “The service that Michigan Works provides is a long-term solution to connect people with careers that can allow them to provide for themselves and their families.”

GLB Michigan Works posts job opportunities daily on its Facebook page, as well as tips for searching for jobs.

GLB Michigan Works is currently providing services virtually.

“We encourage anyone to call and request an appointment. Our staff will be happy to work with them on a scheduled basis,” Wenzel said.

And if someone has lost their job or is going to run out of unemployment benefits soon, she encourages that person to get in touch with Michigan Works right away.

“If you know that your benefits run out in the next six weeks, that’s not a lot of time to make sure your skills are aligned with employee expectations,” Wenzel said. “So we encourage you to connect with us early so that you don’t have an interruption in your income.”

Lawmakers call on governor to fire UIA leadership

Meanwhile, Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland, has joined with 19 legislative colleagues to call on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to fire state Unemployment Insurance Agency officials.

Glenn joined 18 Republican legislators and one Democrat in signing a June 4 letter urging the governor to make a change as thousands of Michigan residents wait for their unemployment benefits or are having problems getting answers about their claims.

Glenn said she has heard from hundreds of unemployed constituents in Bay and Midland counties who are struggling financially because the UIA has failed to do its job.

“UIA officials continue to let down families in Michigan who were laid off because of COVID-19,” Glenn stated in a news release Wednesday. “This isn’t acceptable, and it’s time we take immediate action to find a new leadership team from the private sector or government who can competently get people the help they need. We cannot wait any longer.”

Local unemployment rose almost 16% from January to April

AdvisorSmith, a business insurance resource, reported on Thursday that Midland, at approximately 16%, had the seventh-highest increase in the nation in unemployment from January 2020 to April 2020 among cities with a population under 150,000.

Midland’s unemployment rate went from 4.3% in January to 20% in April, according to AdvisorSmith.

In addition to workers being laid off due to COVID-19, Glenn noted recent dam failures have added to financial stress for families in Bay and Midland counties. She represents portions of both counties.

“These past two and a half months have been difficult for families throughout the entire state,” Glenn said. “And for families here, people are not only struggling financially because of being laid off, but because of devastating flood damage.”

Glenn said she hopes the governor will consider changing the leadership of the UIA.

“Unemployment agency bureaucrats were obviously unprepared for this crisis and have failed to make the urgent improvements necessary since it began,” Glenn said. “We cannot stand by any longer and hope current UIA officials will finally get their act together, not when we have thousands of families suffering while they’re still waiting for to get the unemployment coverage they’ve paid for.”