Categories: Frederick News 21Dec COLUMN: Attention to workforce development critical as economy continues to grow My first year representing our community in the Michigan House has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Michigan’s economy continued to grow and prosper in 2017, which only reinforces the importance of the challenge I’ve been working hard to address as chairman of the House’s Workforce and Talent Development Committee – building a robust talent pool to help fill the thousands of skilled trades jobs available across our state.Tremendous opportunities are available right now for people interested in professional trades. More than 100,000 jobs are publicly posted, and these careers are not only high-demand – they’re also high-paying and highly sustainable.I have worked on a number of important pieces of legislation in the Workforce and Talent Development Committee this year that will help ensure Michigan students are made aware of the opportunities that await them in the professional trades.Educators and business leaders helped us develop legislation to enhance skilled trades education in Michigan schools that recently passed the House with bipartisan support. The bill package establishes an age-appropriate skilled trade instruction plan in K-12 classrooms, allows schools to more readily hire professional trade instructors to teach classes and provides an avenue to help connect students with career opportunities.Along those same lines, a bill our committee passed earlier this year gives students access to better career and college counseling by updating professional development standards for school counselors. Counselors are presently required to complete 150 hours of professional development every five years. This legislation would direct 25 of the hours toward instruction in career counseling, 25 hours for college counseling and five hours on military-based opportunities. The measure was signed into law in November.To ensure students can receive the education they need for a career in the trades, I co-sponsored legislation that gives them flexibility in their high school course requirements. The bills expand class options to allow mandates for foreign language, mathematics and other subjects to be met by rigorous career-based education.The Michigan House of Representatives weighed in on 511 different measures this year, and I made it a priority to participate in each and every vote. Among the pieces of legislation I was most enthusiastic to support are two initiatives that will help drive Michigan’s economy into the future.The MI Thrive bills, signed into law in June, will help communities revitalize abandoned properties that otherwise likely would never be redeveloped. This legislation makes it economically feasible for communities of all sizes to redevelop abandoned and contaminated sites. New jobs and new places to live could be created by revitalizing old factories, abandoned stores and other forgotten sites.The “Good Jobs” bills, signed into law in September, create an incentive plan designed to help our state compete for large economic development projects and boost opportunities for Michigan workers. The performance-based initiative we passed is smart and prudent, and will allow our state to compete in the quest to recruit companies with plans to create a large number of jobs in Michigan. The jobs must be maintained and the wages must be competitive year on year before any incentive is granted.The legislature is also taking steps to address the looming student debt crisis. I voted in support of critically important legislation to better inform college students about debt from school loans. About 63 percent of Michigan students now carry debt when they graduate from college; often in the tens of thousands or more. Too many students are left with these large loan balances and a degree without job market potential. This legislation will provide them with information in advance about the projected monthly payments needed to repay their loans along with access to student loan counseling services and alternatives to indebtedness. This is a small, yet necessary, step to allow students to make a more informed decision. Much more needs to be done in partnership with students, parents and higher education institutions to stem the tide on this looming crisis in our state and nation.I wholeheartedly believe the workforce and economic development initiatives we’ve worked on this year will help grow Michigan’s future and set our students up for successful careers. I’m looking forward to continuing to work hard next year on behalf of our community, and everyone across our state.###Rep. Ben Frederick represents Shiawassee County and portions of Saginaw County in the Michigan House of Representatives, where he serves as chairman of the House Workforce and Talent Development Committee. He resides with his wife and two children in Owosso.