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Gov. Whitmer says state lags in encouraging skilled trades

The realities of a world economy aren't just being felt at big companies like General Motors or Ford. Small businesses are feeling the strain of foreign competition.
Author Joel Kotkin says Michigan needs more mid-level workers, like welders, plumbers, machinists and office workers.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says Michigan has encouraged students to seek four-year college degrees at the expense of encouraging careers in skilled trades.

She says that’s cost the state’s economy, employers, and workers.

Whitmer toured a Detroit community college on Monday to make her point. She says less than half of high school graduates in Michigan seek advanced schooling, and she says that means many lost opportunities, even during good economic times.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. This is a cultural thing that we’ve got to overcome,” she says.

Whitmer says that’s true of older adults who might also be interested in careers in technical fields such as mechanics, electricians, and medical and dental assistants. These are careers that usually require professional certification but not four-year degrees. She also says more certified technology-proficient workers would also attract more high-end employers to the state.

"It’s good stuff. I mean, there’s phenomenal opportunity in this state, but we’ve got to make these paths truly available for young people and for adults who want to up-skill," says Whitmer.

Whitmer says Michigan will have to close a “skills gap” in technical fields to attract employers and raise the standard of living. She says only 45% of people in Michigan seek additional training after graduating from high school.

“When you see that there’s 545,000 jobs by 2026," says Whitmer. "These are good-paying jobs that require a variety of certificates or degrees that aren’t a four-year degree that you can get into.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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