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Michigan Hot 50 is an opportunity to roll up some sleeves

Earlier this month, the State of Michigan held the 5th annual Occupational Outlook Conference, a review of long-term employment projection for the state. One outcome of the conference is the release of the Michigan Hot 50 and the Michigan Career Outlook publications. Michigan Hot 50 is the 50 a listing of Michigan’s 50 highest-wage, highest demand careers.

This year’s conference was held at Schoolcraft Community College in Livonia. There’s a little irony there, since only three of the Michigan Hot 50 require an Associate degree. Twenty-eight of the positions listed require a Bachelor’s degree; five require a Master’s degree; seven require on-the-job training; four require a Doctoral degree; and two require an apprenticeship.

By itself, the State is sending two important messages. First, if you want a high-wage, high demand career, you need a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Twenty percent of the highest-wage, highest-demand jobs don’t require a degree at all. In comparison, just 6% of the highest wage, highest demand jobs in Michigan require an Associate degree.

That’s not just a marketing problem. That’s a plain old, actual problem. Even the State of Michigan recognizes that there are few opportunities to access a high-wage, high demand job with an Associate degree.

Community colleges don’t fare much better in the Michigan Career Outlook publication. This publication lists potential jobs based on salary. On one hand, it shows the enormous number of openings for low-wage jobs. On the other hand, it lumps jobs that requires associate degrees, apprenticeships, and long-term on-the-job training together. Most jobs on the list require an apprenticeship of some sort. It leaves the jobs that require associate degrees as the “odd man out.”

Michigan Hot 50 require degrees, not certificates

The other thing the list makes clear is that if you want a high paying job, the educational preparation for it is going to take some time. The current approach of delivering rapid, minimal training over a period of days or weeks may get put a person in a job, but it will likely be one of the low-wage varieties that will never quite allow the worker to get ahead.

If community colleges really want to elevate their visibility, they’re going to have to develop new programs and new majors that address the needs of our region and the statewide economy. They’re going to have to project a bit into the future, and they’re going to have to prepare to deliver well-trained, well-educated workers. In other words, they’re going to have to make a place fort themselves at the table.

Photo Credit: Didriks, via Flickr