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This year, Evan McKillop, a 2020 class Portage Central High School graduate, had no prom nor a traditional graduation ceremony. But one thing that the 2019 coronavirus outbreak couldn’t take away was his passion for welding. This story from Kalamazoo, Michigan made many young people think about a different career path than what they previously had in mind.
Is Student Debt Worth It?
The decision to take on skilled trades took him on a career path that might have him earn thousands of dollars, rather than having thousands in student debt.
He says that he had definitely thought about simply staying at the local community and going to KVCC, a community college. “But I was also thinking about going to a trade school for welding and getting my Journeyman’s, and just being an apprentice staying local for a while.”
Skilled-trade and manufacturing experts said Michigan, as well as the country, need more people like McKillop.
Future Job Prospects for Skilled Workers
According to Lucas Schrauben, a career development coordinator at the Eaton Local Education Service Agency in Michigan, the state is experiencing what is considered a “skills gap” at the moment. There are going to be as many as 81,000 job openings in specialty occupations in the state of Michigan in the next five to seven years.
“We have seen a resurgence on the critical importance of manufacturing in the economy,” said Humphrey Products president and CEO Dave Maurer. He explained that having the design skills is one thing — being able to actually scale up and successfully produce those products is another.
That is why there is a need for skilled workers.
Michigan’s manufacturers account for nearly 20% of the total production in the state, according to the National Association of Manufacturers’ research. They have over 630,000 employees, earning a yearly average of nearly $80,000.
Hiring More People Is a Must for Increasing Manufacturing Capacity
Most production plants closed in March due to COVID-19 — and just reopened last month.
Several businesses remained open, such as Humphrey ‘s Products in Kalamazoo, as they shifted to manufacturing protective equipment.
The pandemic and the need to increase manufacturing capacity made it even more important to have tradespeople in place and creating that capacity, Maurer explained.
Another advantage for workers like McKillop is they may earn more money sooner in life. However, research from the U.S. Census American Community Survey for 2015 and 2016 shows college grads make nearly $1 million more over the course of their careers than people with a high school diploma only. Overall, Michigan ranks low in degree rate and income, being the bottom third in the country.
However, that can change.
According to Maurer, in a perfect scenario, these young people learn a skill or trade first and can then move to a post-secondary environment that lets them develop in finer details of that trade or even build their own businesses. McKillop says:
I actually feel pretty good about it because trades are something you can take with you wherever you go.
He also explained that this is something that’s relatively fast and simple to learn.
The Need for Skilled Trades Will Never Go Away
The community realizes this need as well, and a lot of people want this issue resolved as soon as possible. It is clear to everyone that this need is not something that will go away in the future.
All things considered, one thing is clear: you will always need people who will be able to do things like welding, carpentry, electricity, and plumbing.