It’s not a secret: Good jobs are available in Michigan. Closing the talent gap is key to filling them.

Roger Curtis

Roger Curtis is the director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development.

No one should give up on finding a good job in Michigan. There is too much opportunity here.

The challenge we face is making people aware of the jobs that are in demand, and point them to the education or training it takes to get them.

The recent Bridge article Michigan’s incredible shrinking workforce shows the disconnect in a state where about 100,000 open positions are posted on the Pure Michigan Talent Connect website. The professional trades fields alone will account for more than 500,000 jobs by 2024, adding roughly 15,000 new jobs each year during that time.

And that’s why we’re taking a comprehensive approach to helping students and adults get the skills need to fill these good jobs.

And this is needed for our state’s long-term success. The talent gap is not unique to Michigan. The state that best closes that gap will have a great advantage over others when employers look at sites to locate or expand. We’re going to be that state. We’re going to close the talent gap and create more and better jobs for Michiganders.

At Gov. Rick Snyder’s direction, the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development has teamed up with the Michigan Department of Education and business, labor, economic development and education leaders to shrink the talent gap in Michigan.

The more we talked with these leaders, we realized much of the problem stems from a career awareness gap. Too many Michigan students don’t know about all the pathways that lead to great careers. We want them to understand four-year degrees aren’t the only pathways to strong, good-paying careers.  And, not all four-year degrees will lead to good jobs.

Understand, we’re not downplaying four-year university degrees. We are, however, “up-playing” all opportunities available for students after high school, including middle college, apprenticeship programs, community college or certification programs.

Together with our departments, and the more than 300 individuals and organizations formally known as the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance, we have established 17 initiatives to create more opportunities for our young people to explore career options and highlight all pathways that lead to good-paying jobs. These initiatives build off the recommendations from Gov. Snyder’s 21st Century Economy Commission and the 21st Century Education Commission reports.

Some of the initiatives include:

  • Setting in place an extensive career exploration class before students begin selecting their elective classes in high school.

  • Expanding career technical education programs statewide.

  • Starting the discussion on equitable funding for career tech programs.

  • Highlighting the flexibility in the Michigan Merit Curriculum to provide an opportunity for schools to integrate curriculum requirements with meaningful career programs, like geometry and carpentry, or healthcare and English-language arts or algebra and advanced manufacturing.

We are also continuing our Going PRO in Michigan campaign, designed to address and correct the dated perceptions of the professional trades. We’re shattering the stereotypes of these careers among students and those who influence them. These are not the dirty, repetitive jobs of the past, but good-paying, high-skilled and high-tech careers in great demand.

We are working to increase the number of registered apprenticeships in the state – in the professional trades and beyond. Michigan received a $2.5 million federal grant to expand apprenticeships to nontraditional fields and to under-served populations. This approach helps people gain skills without accumulating significant college debt.

U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta last month toured several innovative apprenticeship programs in west Michigan, including a first-in-the-nation consortium of healthcare providers and three community colleges for a medical assistant apprenticeship program that could be a model for other regions and states.

Michigan also is investing in adult workers because we know that jobs will require lifelong learning as technology boosts the rate of change. The Skilled Trades Training Fund operates through the Michigan Works! Association to train workers for new jobs, and allow employers to retrain existing workers for new and evolving posts.

The 2018 budget has $29.4 million for Skilled Trades Training Funds grants, up from $17.3 million a year earlier. The 2017 grants were aimed at creating 3,873 jobs and retaining 11,022 positions, with 481 employers taking part in program.

We’ve watched Michigan’s economy grow stronger, creating about a half-million private sector job since the end of 2010. Our focus now should be keeping it strong, and making sure everyone who wants a rewarding, good-paying job has opportunity to get one. And, as Gov. Snyder said, there is more we can do and we are doing it.

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John Q. Public
Fri, 09/08/2017 - 6:58pm

Getting the legislature to agree to define a "motorsports entertainment complex" as an industrial facility in order to get a 50% tax abatement--now, that's talent! Talent, or political connections; I forget which.

Walter P.
Sun, 10/08/2017 - 8:43am

Yo John Q ! The Industrial Facility Exemption was used in Novi, Michigan. A woman who had risen from City Council to State Rep to State Senator amended a Law in order to define a particular piece of vacant land an "industrial facility". What was done in the dark has finally come to light - nearly two decades later. Guess is, there is may be some talent in building a good old boys network. Owner of the land got a "million dollar" exemption. Later, his connections got him another $600K to build a hotel on the property.

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:43pm

Amazing. As I read this article, there is a common show playing on 4 television networks on the need to change and improve our national high school system. Unfortunately, the show is a cross between American Idol, E-Entertainment, a Super Bowl half time program, and Dance America. We need a way to instill in our children and parents the idea that learning begins at birth, and make it more interesting to learn the periodic table of the elements or classic literature or art than it is to know the latest rap song or what entertainer is coming to the local arena. And we had better do it fast because our standing in the world is sinking rapidly.

Kevin Grand
Sat, 09/09/2017 - 12:08pm

"We want them to understand four-year degrees aren’t the only pathways to strong, good-paying careers. And, not all four-year degrees will lead to good jobs."

Wait, what?

Who allowed this man to post an article on The Bridge?

He just might be onto something.

Chuck Fellows
Sun, 09/10/2017 - 8:49am

Go to, Manufacturing Day October 6, 2017, and sign up to support the development of skilled talent in Michigan.

Manufacturing Day is an annual celebration of modern manufacturing during which manufacturers invite their communities — including students, educators, businesspeople, media, and politicians — to their facilities in a collective effort to educate visitors about manufacturing career opportunities and improve public perceptions of manufacturing. In 2016 there were 595,341 participants and 267,607 students attending.

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 4:17pm

Mr. Curtis is like all of the other writers that post on Bridge about education, is it a theme, they want to spend more of other people’s money, they offer no accountability for what they are proposing and they ignore those that will actually deliver the results they claim will happen because of what they are promoting.

I would encourage Mr. Curtis to establishes some disciplined [not talk about history but focused on tomorrow] conversations across the state [in successful and no so successful school districts] with students [10th-12th grouping, 8th & 9th another group, 5th-7th a 3rd group] asking them what they like to do and what types of careers they see it relating to, what are the barriers to preparing for such a career, and for those who are succeeding academically about how and why are they succeeding. Recognize that even business listens to those who are making the decision about what they will do, try to learn why and how they make their decision to act.

An observation both about what Mr. Curtis writes and about many others that are making claims how to build a better Michigan economy. Have they not heard that the economy/society has moved from manufacturing dominated to service dominated? If we ignore this transition we are dooming Michigan to repeat the downward spiral of our economy. Grand Rapids got a new cloud service center, Amazon is opening up bids for a secondary headquarters facility, these are what will be the expanding part of our economy. This is the future and until the proposals such as Mr. Curtis start including this change in their ideas and writings people will be thinking in the past and not in the future, reality is that the future for Michigan is now.

Walter P.
Sun, 10/08/2017 - 8:57am

Yo Chuck ! " they want to spend more of other people’s money" ...Sike ! Public Education, Prenatal - 20, is not about children, parents, teaching, learning. Public Ed is not about "building capacity and placemaking" (whatever that means), not about Society. Public Education is about power, control, and money - lots of money. Just for the fun of it, let me pick some arbitrary large, but plausible number. Prenatal - 20 in Michigan is perhaps a $25B/Year sector of the economy. Lots of folks covet that sum. Zoom out to view the past six decades of public education. Power/Control of Public Ed has moved from local districts to state capitols, the federal capitol, and to Upper Saddle River, NJ (corporate home of Pearson Education).

Laurel Raisanen
Mon, 09/11/2017 - 10:36am

When I was a high school student and a young worker, (60's) apprentice programs for plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. were offered through their unions by "master" tradesmen. The attacks by politicians on these skilled trades and their educators have left this workforce weak . I retired as a graphic artist but started as a paste up worker. My union negotiated training in our contract when computers took over that skill so I was trained and I retained my job. Nowhere in this article do you mention unions and how they kept our workers working. You should have.

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 3:58pm

Spot on. The Michigan GOP (and national GOP) have tried to destroy unions and degrade and underfund our educational system. Now the chickens have come home to roost and they're trying to act like they had nothing to do with mess they created.

The GOP wants fast food employees teaching our kids to be good worker drones who won't question why the rich get richer and richer while the middle class struggles to work longer and longer hours for less. Then they gerrymandered our state to ensure no one but the GOP wins and keeps doing the same thing over and over. We need to vote these traitors out, period.

Chris M. Olson
Mon, 09/11/2017 - 5:33pm

It is somewhat ironic but Michigan in the 1970's had one of the premier career education models--K-12 and beyond. Most of what I read in this article and more was accounted for in that model, including Career Awareness in the beginning grades through Career Exploration, Career Development, and Career Preparation. The delivery system was through trained teacher educators which was a win-win for everyone.

And, as the discussion includes a technical diploma to complement an academic one and lifelong education, the tool for delivering this is no further away than Pure Michigan Talent Connect and the Build a Resume feature.

Sometimes we brush more off the table than we leave on it...

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 2:03am


What you say is true, the part that so many seem to leave unsaid is the environment/culture/government programs then and now.
The time you talk about was the early stages of government programs, such as urban renewal, War on Poverty, the shifting from individual control to government responsibility through program spending.
In the 60s and 70s there was more an expectation by parents, schools/teachers, communities, and even government that there was for the student with responsibilities for their learning. Today and for at least a generation the emphasis has moved to the system, to spending, to the schools/teachers, epitomized by the talking and system/program focus on scoring instead of learning. Probably the best example of the change outside of school culture is the shift of support of teachers to one of challenging individually and collectively. As a disheartening example, is the school event where a student disrupts the class and is disciplined by the teacher, followed by that child's parent going to the Principle to get the punishment removed by belittling the teacher, and the school administration succumbs to such verbal assaults by apologizing and removing the discipline.

It is more what was outside the classroom leading up to the 70s that had as great and impact on learning success as what was going on inside the classroom.

Tami Carlone
Wed, 11/01/2017 - 3:38pm

Chris - you nailed it. Also, what this article leaves out, is the plan for Snyder and the powers that be to data mine and track our children using big data and slotting them into jobs/ tracks by middle school. Never mind that the data systems are already being hacked, students and schools threatened, kids in middle school usually have no real idea what their gifts, passions, and career interest are, and that we are a free America. We can do the good things you want to do without these un-American systems. Please also keep in mind, we are not a socialist nation and we do not want our tax dollars used in ways that have nothing to do with what our government is set up for.

Brian Casterline
Tue, 09/12/2017 - 9:40am

Skilled Trades seem like a great option. The President has also recently discussed this. The difficulty is that it is a good option for some other person's children. Do you think the President suggested it for any of his children who each attended an exclusive private university instead of the local junior college. I think many upper middle class politicians who laud this choice would be embarrassed at a cocktail party if their Meghan or Dylan were to become a welder or mechanic.

Robert Smith
Wed, 09/13/2017 - 6:01am

The jobs may be there but the pay isn't.

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 4:16pm


Maybe the pay is related to the knowledge and skills and responsibilities the employee uses.
What do you consider a good paying job and what knowledge and skills do you believe an employee should have to earn such a pay?