For teens, what a skilled trades career looks like

Now that Governor Rick Snyder has secured the governorship for another term, expect to see a strong focus on vocational education training during the next four years.

It’s part of what Gov. Snyder calls one of the state’s most pressing needs – fixing the state’s skills gap, in which 75,000 skilled jobs remain vacant because of a lack of qualified applicants. Watch Snyder explain how the state “got into this mess.”

Many of the vacant jobs lie in the skilled trades industries – careers that typically require some training beyond high school but not usually a four-year degree. The opportunities in the skilled trades are vast and go beyond the careers that may typically come to mind.

If you’ve ever needed physical therapy, you might have worked with a physical therapy assistant who provided massages, hot and cold compresses and/or monitored your exercise routine. Physical therapy assistants can bring home as much as $76,000 annually. An associate degree is the highest level of training required, and job growth is forecasted at 29 percent through 2020 in Michigan.

You’ve probably encountered a computer user support specialist if you’ve ever called for help with technical support on a malfunctioning computer. Help desk technicians, as they are called, work to resolve computer problems electronically or on the telephone. The people on the other end of the line can earn as much as $73,000 annually. Some college is needed, but no degree is required. Michigan forecasted job growth is expected to grow 15 percent through 2020.

If you’ve ever lost power to your home, (and during a winter in Michigan, who hasn’t?) you’ve probably seen an electrical power line repair person working to turn your electricity back on. Electrical power-line installers and repairers can make as much as $80,000 annually. A high school diploma and long-term, on-the-job apprenticeships are required and job growth is forecasted at 5 percent through 2020.

All of these jobs lie in the skilled trades industries and are highlighted in the Career and Technical Training Guide for Skilled Trade Occupations in Michigan, a report created by the Michigan Credit Union League, the trade association representing Michigan credit unions.

Credit unions are committed to helping their members make sound financial decisions and improve their financial lives, and job choices are key to achieving financial stability. Our research shows demand for the skilled trades will only increase. In Michigan, the skilled trades as a whole are expected to grow by 7.4 percent by 2020, and many industries are expected to grow much more substantially – in some cases, 30 to 50 percent.

MCUL collaborated with Congressman Dan Benishek, Michigan’s Workforce Development Agency and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to research the state’s employment needs and investigate how we could help equip our workforce.

Listen to what prompted Rep. Benishek to make skilled trades education a key priority in his northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula district.

The collaboration resulted in development of free resources for teens and young adults to evaluate skilled trade occupations. The resources include the comprehensive guide, which features 24 in-demand skilled trade careers grouped into five clusters as designated by the Workforce Development Agency: manufacturing, health care, agriculture, energy and information technology.

The guide is a career roadmap of sorts, designed for young people and those looking to redefine their careers. It includes salary information, training needed and forecasted job growth. The three examples at the beginning of the article are all listed in the guide.

We also want to make it easy for teachers to incorporate skilled trades education into high school classrooms. So MCUL partnered with a Michigan teacher to create lesson plans to explore the skilled trades. The plans help students learn about skilled trades industries as a whole, then identify their skill sets and which skilled trades positions might interest them. All of these materials are available for free on our website.

Choosing a career is a monumental decision. MCUL wants to ensure that young people have the right tools at their disposal to make a decision that’s most right for them – whether it’s pursuing a four-year degree or looking for work in the skilled trades. Either way, if young people discover they can make a significant contribution and a good living by staying in Michigan, we all win.

Dave Adams is the CEO of the Lansing-based Michigan Credit Union League and CU Solutions Group.

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Tue, 12/09/2014 - 9:43am
I've been saying for years that a lot of people should not go to college but instead go to a skilled trades program somewhere. A welder will earn far more than someone with most any BA degrees, and probably have more job satisfaction. But some do not want to "get their hands dirty". Instead, they end up in dead end jobs that pay little, and then they protest that they should be making $15 per hour when in fact they have very little life skills.
David Waymire
Wed, 12/10/2014 - 4:22pm
I would encourage those of you with youngsters who may be interested in encouraging them to forgo college, if that is an option, and enter, say, welding, to do a little research. I would start with these two web sites, which look at pay and number of jobs in various categories Welders are 51-4121 and 4122. 51-4121: Welders, Cutters, Solders and Brasers. Those in this line of work “use hand-welding, flame-cutting, hand soldering, or brazing equipment to weld or join metal components or to fill holes, indentations, or seams of fabricated metal products.” In 2006, there were 12,400 of these positions, and their pay averaged $38,820 a year in Michigan. In 2013, there were 10,770 of these positions in our state – and the pay averaged $36,470, down $2,350 in six years. 51-4122: Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders. These workers “Set up, operate, or tend welding, soldering, or brazing machines or robots that weld, braze, solder, or heat treat metal products, components, or assemblies. Includes workers who operate laser cutters or laser-beam machines.” In 2006, Michigan had 5,190 of these positions, and they paid a handsome $44,180. But today, thanks largely to automation, there are just 3,050 jobs in this line. And the pay is way, way down, to $36,470 – a huge $6,580 annual pay cut. Just saying. If my child had an option to go to welding school or get a liberal arts degree, I would send him or her to college.
Thu, 12/11/2014 - 10:24am
Welding was just one example of many skilled trades. And even $40K beats being a barista at Mickey D's. Skilled auto/truck mechanic - hard to find. Air conditioning / heating repair, Comcast/Verizon/Brighthouse technician, electronics technician, commercial electrician, medical field, any number of skilled trades that will pay up to $70 - $80K. But you have to be good at what you're doing. Not everyone is suited for the skilled trades route.
Keith Warnick
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 11:02am is something I'm currently working on. Hopefully with a local SE Michigan school district. The average age of a moldmaker is 56 years. There is a huge shortage of new workers in this field; American and global companies are at capacity. Many shops that I know are working 58 hours a week and journeymen are making $70-$80,00 a year.
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 9:45am
It's about time.
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 10:15am
I'm a retired teacher and I've been saying for years, there are those students that don't need to go to college. As has been stated they are interested in a skill trades program and will be more productive in a job they're interested in .
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 10:50am
In the department of unintended consequences, one of the problems underlying this situation is that many of the unions that used to run apprenticeship programs to bring young people into the trades have been busted by the very companies (and politicians) that are now complaining about lack of skilled workers. Just something to think about in addition to the incomprehensible gutting of vocational education in our high school system. The Early College and Technical Middle College high school programs now being offered by school districts, or intermediate school districts in some areas are an amazing value for families seeking skilled trades careers for their students. In many of these programs, kids can graduate from high school with an AD in their target field at absolutely no out of pocket cost. A great topic for Bridge to look into.
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 10:55am
It is important that individuals understand how to prepare today for the labor market realities of tomorrow. Individuals should explore their options, learning a skilled trade, and being good at it, can often result in a higher rate of return than earning a BA degree. A friend sent me this video, I encourage others to take the time to watch it: Success in the New Economy
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 11:12am
40 years ago when I started my career in Vocational Education we had over 20 CTE programs. Now less than 8. Just keep uping the graduation requirements like Foreign Language, more math, Chemistry and Physics. etc and you leave less room for the Trades Programs. Try outsourcing Physical Therapy , electricians,welding,auto mechanics, Nursing etc. etc. Good luck . It's not too late but we are running out of time. R.L.
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 11:26am
Post-secondary education is vital in our world today. College- is post-secondary education--broadly defined- is what is needed to help students prepare for their careers- We need our students to be self-aware of their strengths and skill sets so that they make realistic plans for the career preparation. Not everyone needs a 4yr degree or more for them to be career ready. The reduction in CTE is not as it seems-They are more streamlined and recognize the need for more "blending" in things like Advanced Manufacturing with includes welding and CAD, etc etc. We need to CELEBRATE our students post-secondary plans whatever they may be and encourage a BACK-UP Plan as well.
Chuck Fellows
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 11:54am
Another name for vocational learning - project based learning.
Andra Rush
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 6:52pm
I totally agree with your comment and we so need project based learning - skilled trades- professions -- Hope all is well with you
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:25pm
The article highlighted great careers for many. However, as a Heavy Truck dealer who cannot find enough technicians to work on trucks, I would have like to see an automotive cluster that would have included car/light truck repair, medium and heavy truck repair, engine and transmission bench repair/rebuilding, as well as construction/agricultural machinery repair. At a Heavy Truck dealership a technician with a mid level certification can make $23-27/hr plus incentives for efficiency and benefits.
Gene Markel
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:37pm
The GM ASEP training program has combined state of the art automotive service, appropriate academic coursework, and real world internship experiences to give students the best possible preparation for a career as an automotive technician.GM ASEP teaches exclusively on current GM products. GM ASEP incorporates advanced automotive technical training with a strong academic foundation of math, reading, and electronics, and both analytical and technical skills. GM ASEP is a joint effort between GM, GM dealers, ACDelco Professional Service Center Program Member, and select colleges across the United States, Canada,
Ed Burke
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:10pm
Good Job Geno. I was the Ed above your post.
Mary Kovari
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 9:54pm
I think building school trajectories for the trades, and in the fields of engineering, technology and medicine that do not require a four year degree are important. I believe there are many opportunities at the community college level but there is not a strong relationship between community colleges and high schools - why? Early college and technical middle colleges offer new ways to think about high schools and what they are able to offer students so why don't we have more of them? One of the issues is student proficiency in the areas of literacy and mathematics, especially for low income students. High schools with high concentrations of poverty do not do a good job of organizing themselves to meet this need and students struggle to graduate let alone enter a community college, even when it is offered for free like it was in Detroit. "Project based learning" might help engage students for a short time but they soon struggle to master thinking and problem solving skills because of their weak literacy and math skills. Literacy and math proficiency is also not "solved" in elementary school and must be seen on a continuum, especially for students living in poverty.
Wed, 12/10/2014 - 3:49pm
The building and construction trades locals train their own. Paid for by the existing members not tax money. Our simple Michigan governor is doing all he can to bust and do away with the unions. The apprentiance programs train young people to be good and well trained employees that can do a construction job better and cheaper than the non-union companies with NO cost to the Michigan taxpayers. These employees are paid well but many are seasonal. Every day they go to work they are one day closer to being out of work. When our so called leader {governor} does away with the unions the taxpayers will be paying for the training of these new employees as we are collages. Think about it.
Wed, 02/18/2015 - 12:53pm
What is written in the article about skilled trades is good but what about the skill trades Carpenter, Plumbers, Electricians, Hvac mechanics, Masons , Welders, Pipefitters , Painters that build and maintains homes, business,factories