Owosso Argus-Press: Senator: Efforts underway to build employee skills

Sen. Gary Peters visits ADI of Michigan

OWOSSO — Skilled trades were on U.S. Sen. Gary Peters’ mind Friday when he visited Baker College’s Auto/Diesel Institute of Michigan.

The Democratic senator from Michigan came to Owosso after visiting a factory in Saginaw, where he was told about the many open skilled positions they couldn’t fill because of a lack of qualified candidates. The Auto/Diesel Institute, the senator noted, offers an opportunity to gain those qualifications.

“This is a very impressive facility that provides state of the art training for future mechanics and technicians,” Peters said at the end of the tour. “Employers have job openings but they don’t have people with the needed skills. It’s important for young people to know that skilled trades provide good jobs that pay well, and you can instantly get a job.”

In fact, when questioned by Peters, some students told him they already have part-time jobs with employers who have assured them they will move to a 40-hour work week once they graduate.

“They walk out of here with a diploma and a full-time job,” Peters said.

The Democratic senator discussed how a bipartisan bill he introduced could help steer interested students in the direction of a career and technical education program. The bill trains high school counselors, who focus on the traditional four-year college pathway, how to advise students on post-secondary education programs.

The bill, with modifications, has passed both the Senate and House, and will be signed into law by President Donald Trump soon, Peters said.

“I believe you have to work in a bi-partisan way. The only way to get things done is working together,” he said. “There are very complex problems facing the country. I want to see more bipartisanship on the big issues.”

Achieving bipartisanship isn’t easy in the current political atmosphere, Peters said.

“People are going to two different tribes, and they don’t listen to people if they’re not in the same tribe,” the senator said. “We have to remember that we share many of the same core values, that we have so much more in common than not.”

Led by Thomas Dann, the institute’s program director, and Aaron Maike, president of Baker College of Owosso when the institute opened six years ago, Peters inspected nearly every room inside the ADI building, checking out rows of engines in classrooms, a shiny Shelby Cobra assembled by students and a room packed with car parts.

“I didn’t want to miss this,” said Maike, who now leads the Baker College in Muskegon. “I’m elated Sen. Peters chose to come to ADI. His focus on skilled trades is laudable. Thankfully, he has recognized ADI as an institute where we have the ability to meet the needs for skilled employees.”

Peters discusses issues

After the tour, Peters talked about a wide range of topics, including Russian interference in U.S. elections. Peters said his service on the armed services and homeland security committees leaves no doubt in his mind where he stands.

“There is no question that the Russians are actively involved in the last election here, and in other elections around the world,” he said. “There is no question that the Russian government is not our friend and that they want to disrupt our elections. We have to guard against it. We need to send a message to the president that we’re not going to tolerate it.”

As for the possibly of the Russia government interfering in the upcoming midterm elections, Peters said: “I’m concerned. We have to be vigilant.”

Peters is also concerned about the opioid crisis, crafting a bipartisan bill whose provisions advanced in the Senate as part of a larger bill that expands access to opioid addiction treatment for adolescents.

“It doesn’t matter what zip code you live in, you see addiction to opioids and heroin, which is so much more dangerous now because it’s laced with fentanyl,” he said. “This is a national public health crisis, and we need more resources.”

Peters was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, and has two years left to serve in his first term. He was the U.S. representative for Michigan’s 14th congressional district from 2013 until he was elected to the Senate. From 2009 to 2013, he represented the state’s 9th congressional district.

Before being elected to Congress, Peters served in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He worked as an investment adviser for 22 years. He and his wife, Colleen Peters, live in Oakland County. They have three children: Gary Jr., Madeleine and Alana.

By:  Sally York
Source: Owosso Argus-Press