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Issue 1561 November 25, 2012
(Prior Story)   Columns ArTicle 11440   (Next Story)

GOOD, BAD NEWS: Amazing Number of Jobs Open, Few to Fill Them

Michigan Ramping Up Apprenticeships to Catch Up on Worker Training

January 16, 2019       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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MICHIGAN CONSTITUTION, Article VIII

The Legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.



That promise has proven empty, with just 79 percent of Michigan high school seniors graduating, defined as the four-year on-time graduation rate. That amounts to amounts to about 24,000 dropouts. The number of dropouts ages 18-22 in just the mid-Michigan area is in excess of 4,000.

Regarding Michigan's Workforce, the GOOD NEWS is: About 811,000 jobs will be available in 2020 and beyond; $49 billion a year in wages.

The BAD NEWS is there are few qualified workers to fill those jobs.

Our studies show that the main reason for the shortage of qualified workers is the high school dropout rate of about 20% statewide and the fact that opportunities to complete high school and move into community college or job training are very limited.

OVERWHELMED & UNDERFUNDED

While nearly every school district had a high school completion program 25 years ago, those programs have largely been de-funded, or under-funded, leaving remaining programs at the Career Center and Michigan Works overwhelmed by the demand from employers.

Those are the primary reasons we have formed School-to-Work Pathways, a new non-profit educational organization in Bay City. One analogy that can be applied to Michigan's labor market is this: If one of five cars coming off the assembly line was defective, the auto company would soon be out of business. Yet we tolerate that situation in education. It's way past time to reverse that trend and we hope to be part of the revival.

The days are long gone when any struggling student could walk out of school and into a job at Bay City Chevy, Saginaw foundry or Dow in Midland. Or, a judge could send a minor offender to the Army where discipline and training soon changed their lives.

A group of business and professional people in Bay City have formed a non-profit educational organization to join a state and national effort to train more apprentices for jobs.

It is called School-to-Work Pathways. In the past two decade,s no greater workforce dilemma has arisen. Some observers theorize that the K-12 falling school enrollments are due to young people who cannot find jobs paying enough to support a family. An in-depth study is needed to spotlight these issues that are threatening our schools and our economy.

Beginning a quarter century ago funding cuts of about 85% have virtually eliminated opportunities for the student who does not graduate with his or her class. Unfortunately, rosy predictions by legislators of a 100% graduation rate have fallen way short. The figure in Michigan is 79 percent.

Students need at least a GED to qualify for federal tuition aid at Delta and even the military requires a diploma for enlistment.

Michigan is at a talent pipeline crossroads. Employers can't fill jobs because of the lack of a sufficiently skilled workforce. We hope to bring non-graduates, especially women, together with employers to develop new pathways to work.

Bay City has a long history in post high school learning; in 1879, young dock and lumber mill workers petitioned the West Bay City Board of Education for night school to improve their skills. This may have been one of the earliest examples of what for years was called Adult Education.

The movement was revived again during the Depression as the workforce in effect renewed its skills enmasse.

And high school completion programs for non-graduates were revived again in the 1960s, thriving until the early 90s. Projections by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives show that Michigan will experience a Professional Trades workforce gap of more than 811,000 openings through 2024 in several high-demand, high-wage careers in information technology and computer science, healthcare, manufacturing and other industries.

At the same time, appreciation of the rewards that can come from apprenticeships and Professional Trades is lagging in Michigan. At least half of Michigan's high school students, young adults and parents lack knowledge about the value and benefits apprenticeships offer, with only 13% of high school students considering apprenticeships a good career path option, according to a new statewide survey commissioned by the Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA).

The State of Michigan's labor market projections anticipate that 811,055 job postings will remain unfilled through 2024, which translates to over $49 billion in lost wages annually for Michigan's economy.

After a study in 2017, the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute found that virtual (on-line) schools graduated only 56 percent of seniors, according to the Great Lakes Cyber Academy in Okemos, which contracts with Connections Academy, one of the state's largest online providers.

The Institute has recommended the following:

"Policymakers need to develop new funding formulas based on the actual costs of operating virtual schools and new accountability structures for virtual schools, including guidelines and governance mechanisms to ensure that virtual schools do not prioritize profit over student performance. Further policymakers need to assess the contributions of various providers to student achievement, and close virtual schools and programs that do not contribute to student growth."

MVU researcher Gary Miron asserts that blended schools -- combining online and face-to-face learning -- will be the future of education.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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