National Skilled Trades Workers Day Highlights Michigan’s critical need

National Skilled Trades Day is observed annually on the first Wednesday in May to raise awareness about the value of the skilled trades workforce, honor skilled trades workers and encourage others to pursue skilled trades careers. Employers in Michigan are now seeking talent to fill these roles more than ever before.

Metro Detroit news headlines scream of sizable professional trades shortages which are expected to continue through 2026. Professional trades will account for more than 545,000 jobs in the Michigan economy, and approximately 47,000 new job openings are expected annually in the state during that time. In the next 15 years, 48% of skilled workers in Michigan will retire, and companies are already struggling to fill those openings.

Fortunately, with the help of government and educational programs, the message that trade work is in high demand and offers high-salary potential is getting through. Opportunities exist in a variety of emerging industries including IT, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, construction and automotive. And many of the career fields do not require a four-year degree. Meanwhile, wages for professional trades occupations is 45 percent higher than other occupations – $54,000 is the median annual salary for these jobs!

“Across Michigan, there are more than 100,000 high school students currently enrolled in CTE courses,” says Deo Wells, Career and Technical Education coordinator at the Great Lakes Learning Academy in Lansing. Adding to the interest, students are reconsidering their post-secondary options, such as attending universities — to avoid soaring tuition costs and instead land a good-paying job almost immediately out of high school,” he said.

“Going PRO” is a Michigan campaign designed to elevate the perception of professional trades and to showcase opportunities in a variety of rewarding careers. The state provides companies with funding to partially pay for skilled trades training and apprenticeships for current and new employees.

Barron Industries has been successful in meeting its recruitment and training goals through the assistance of the Michigan Works! Going Pro Talent Fund. In 2021, Barron hired and trained 35 employees for a variety of positions including foundry and mold technicians, metal finishing specialists, CNC machinists, quality control and other general labor roles that required no previous experience.  Nine of our team members were promoted to supervisory roles increasing their hourly wages by a total of $23.96. In recognition of it’s participation in the Going Pro program, Barron received the Oakland County Michigan Works! Business of the year Award.

Meanwhile, the skilled trades training has also allowed the company as a whole to become more competitive in serving our existing safety-critical industries and breaking into new areas such as defense and commercial opportunities in near-earth and low orbit space. We’ve played a part in State efforts to attract these growing industries by participating in related industry organizations like the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) and the Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan ( AIAM).