Building marketable skills

Kathleen Achtenberg

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Statewide tour aims to raise awareness of skilled-trades jobs

There is a high demand for people with technical skills, which means tremendous opportunities for young talent.

A statewide tour kicked off by Gov. Snyder last month aims to spotlight the state’s focus on training and placement for skilled-trade jobs. These are jobs that require education beyond high school, but not a four-year degree, and usually on-the-job training. The career range includes jobs in health care (lab technicians, dental hygienist), maintenance and repair, public safety, manufacturing (machine operators, welders), along with work as carpenters, plumbers and electricians. 

On Dec. 2, Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Stephanie Comai, director of the Michigan Talent Investment Agency, joined by local commissioners, toured the Calhoun Area Career Center (CACC) in Battle Creek to learn about the innovative programs in computer networking, construction technology, collision repair technology and health careers prep. There are more than 8,000 openings for skilled-trade jobs in the state.

“There is a high demand for people with technical skills, which means tremendous opportunities for young talent,” said Comai. “The industry faces misperceptions and we need to continue to talk about these career options in Michigan. Opportunities to visit with students like we did today are very important.”

Following the tour, Arwood and Comai joined Steve Pignataro, CACC alumni and founder and CEO of corePHP, and Mark Crawford, vice president of Community Health Services, Bronson Battle Creek, to talk with students about how the in-demand skills they are learning now can lead to successful, well-paying careers.

“Having a skill and a degree guarantees a more successful future for young adults,” said Kris Jenkins, assistant superintendent of Regional Career & Technical Education at the Calhoun Intermediate School District.

MEDC’s Steve Arwood (right)

“We need our young people to have the opportunity to find careers that will provide them with a sustainable income,” he said. “By providing training in the skilled trades that are key to the success of our county and our state, we hope to retain these talented students in our community.”

Through 2022, the National Skills Coalition predicts half of all job openings will be in middle-skills with 30 percent high-skill and 20 percent low skill jobs. Further, the coalition reports many key industries are unable to regularly find enough trained workers. The degree of finding – or not finding – qualified employees could be the difference between a thriving and static business.

Collectively, these middle-skill jobs – paying as much as $50,000 to $100,000 annually – represent about one-third of Michigan’s current workforce. Meanwhile, middle-skill jobs make up the largest segment of the U.S. labor market.

“Because there is a high demand for people with technical skills, there are so many opportunities for young talent to find good-paying, sustainable jobs in skilled trades,” said Arwood. “We realize many of the students in CTE programs are already interested in a skilled-trades career path, and we’re hoping they can help us by becoming ambassadors for the industry and promoting these careers to their peers.”

In May, a partnership was announced between the Michigan Economic Development CorporationMichigan’s Talent Investment AgencyMike Rowe, TV host and founder of mikeroweWORKS, and Tom Daldin, host of Under the Radar Michigan to create videos that address common misconceptions and perceptions about skilled trades.  

In October 2014, Snyder announced a $50 million grant program to provide funding that enables Michigan community colleges to purchase equipment required for educational programs in high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand occupations; the largest investment of its kind in the country.

For more information about skilled trades in Michigan, visit

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