Michigan Energy Can Help Address Structural Unemployment

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Among the topics discussed in his State of the State address, Governor Rick Snyder sang the praises of a program called Community Ventures, which helps structurally unemployed Michiganders find jobs. 

“The program’s succeeding.  So far we’ve placed over 1,400 people in the last year,” he boasted.  “The one-year retention rate is almost 70 percent, and we have 75 employers participating.” 

What is Structural Unemployment?

Structural unemployment describes situations when workers’ skills don’t match the needs of the labor market, leaving them unemployed for long periods of time, unable to transfer their skills to other vocations, and perhaps having to leave the workforce altogether.  It is usually caused by one or more dramatic changes to the economy, such as advances in technology.  

Regular unemployment figures don’t reflect these workers’ struggles, but other numbers provide plenty of evidence of this nationwide problem:  The labor force participation rate last fall dipped to its lowest since 1978.  Excluding children under the age of 16, 90.5 million Americans do not work. 

Possible Solutions Powered by Michigan Energy

The Alliance for Michigan Power believes structural unemployment can be significantly addressed through investment and innovation in Michigan’s energy industry.   

One might expect industry advancements like advanced grid technology to increase structural unemployment; but in fact, the opposite is true. Michigan’s energy industry is keeping its loyal workers—and giving them better prospects for the future—by retraining them for new, emerging positions.  

Moreover, young people are being trained to be stewards of next-generation energy technology, including efforts to integrate renewable energy sources like wind power into our state’s energy portfolio. 

In order to reap the full potential of our energy future, we need to keep our energy policies in balance.  Dramatic changes that would affect our energy infrastructure in negative ways, such as full electric deregulation, could cause uncertainty among investors and will only add to structural unemployment in Michigan if we start outsourcing our energy needs to other states. 

That’s why we need to continue to fight for Michigan energy—and the jobs, innovation, and communities it supports.