As of 2018, there were approximately 80,000 unfilled skilled trade jobs in Michigan. The ongoing shortage of skilled workers in the state has led to a continual decline in the unemployment rate – dropping from 11.3% in 2010 to 4% in 2019 – which is great for anyone who is looking for a job, but not so great for employers who need the labor of qualified professionals (because most of them are already employed). So, how did the Wolverine State get into such a predicament? Below we’ll answer that question and more with the top seven reasons why Michigan is in dire need of skilled workers:
1. Michigan’s Educational Programs Need More Promotion
Ultimately, the shortage of workers is directly linked to a shortage of students. If you can get more students to graduate with degrees and other qualifications, you can increase the availability of eligible job candidates in the state. To contribute to this effort, many colleges are already partnering with companies to facilitate internships and apprenticeships.
In addition, several universities have increased promotional efforts to persuade more students into enrolling for crucial job positions. For example, Michigan Tech has been focused on improving enrollment rates for their civil engineering program (click here to learn more about Michigan Tech’s online civil engineering degree).
2. There Aren’t Enough Students to Fill the Gaps Left by Retirees
Michigan has quite a bit of older residents who are at or are approaching retirement age. To be precise, roughly 23% of the state’s residents are 60 or older. With such a sizable chunk of the population leaving the workforce, many industries are having trouble replacing them with experienced and qualified workers.
Even recent graduates don’t quite fit the bill because, while they may have a degree, they typically don’t have the experience needed to fill a senior employee’s role. The nursing sector is being hit particularly hard by the wave of retiring baby boomers, as more than 40% of the state’s nurses are 55 or older.
3. Some Employers Aren’t Trying Hard Enough
There’s a post on the Michigan.gov website entitled “Ten Ways to Help Create Skilled Workers” and it’s primarily geared towards employers and the steps they can take to find much-needed employees. If you check it out, you’ll find that there are many ways employers can enhance their searches for skilled tradesmen, yet most companies aren’t even taking half of these steps.
While that wouldn’t solve the shortage of soon-to-be graduates, if every company that’s in need of skilled workers made more of an effort in their employee searches, it’s possible that the state’s unemployment rate could drop as low as 1%-2% and some of the effects of the worker shortage could be partially alleviated.
4. The Cost and Commitment of College
Let’s face it, a huge number of prospective students are discouraged by the level of commitment required to complete a degree program. Many people feel like they don’t have a full four years of their life to devote their education, even though it may actually be their best move.
Furthermore, the cost of tuition is steadily rising, so going to college has begun to look a lot like an expensive investment to many millennials. In April 2018, Michigan passed SB 267 – a bill that will reduce the cost of 4-year degree programs and make access to community colleges universally available to any low or middle-income student who maintained a B average in high school.
5. A Lack of Professionals with Technical Certifications
More than 60% of the job openings in the state are for positions that only require technical certification or a 2-year associate’s degree. This shows that much of the problem could be solved by enticing more students into obtaining such qualifications rather than going directly into the workforce.
Since these jobs often come with very decent salaries and other perks, there are plenty of ways to persuade students into considering this path, yet many certification providers are not actively engaged in adequate marketing and promotional efforts.
6. A Higher-Than-Average Poverty Rate
Michigan’s poverty sits at around 15%, which is notably higher than the national average of 12.7%. The vast majority of people who live under the poverty line are stuck living paycheck to paycheck and therefore don’t have the time or energy needed to pursue long-term career options. After all, it can be difficult to focus on school when you’re working full-time just to pay your bills and stay comfortable.
Additionally, poverty-stricken students have a higher chance of having bad credit, which can prevent them from gaining access to student loans. That being said, poverty is only a valid excuse – it’s not a complete barrier. Economically unfortunate students who work hard to maintain a high grade-point average in high school can still gain access to scholarships and other forms of academic assistance.
7. The “Laziness and Entitlement” of Millennials
Finally, while this might seem like a stereotypical insult aimed at the younger generation, there’s no denying that the vast majority of millennials would rather opt for fast money and playing video games every day over the slow and steady approach of earning a degree. That’s not an opinion, either – statistically, members of this generation are less likely to pursue a college degree than those of any generation before it.
Michigan is ranked in the top 10 states in terms of the population of millennials, most of whom are either too young or too preoccupied to become a skilled worker, so that only adds to the labor shortage. However, one could also argue that millennials have more career and lifestyle options on the table in today’s incredibly diverse and continually expanding tech-based economy. Someone who might have become a carpenter 30 years ago might today be sitting in a data center somewhere managing a web server.
Be a Part of the Solution
If you’re a Michigan resident who’s been pondering your career options, or you plan on moving to the state any time soon, consider the advantages of becoming a skilled trade worker, not least of which would be the ability to guarantee yourself gainful employment.