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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Traverse City-area leaders announce new partnership with Going PRO, largest effort in Michigan history to promote Professional Trades and help fill state's talent gap

Monday, June 17, 2019
TED CONTACT: Camara Lewis, 517-930-4928


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.—State legislators and leaders in business, education and workforce development announced Monday, June 17, the Traverse City kickoff of Going PRO, a new public-private partnership that is one of the nation’s most ambitious statewide education and awareness campaigns to help employers in the Grand Traverse region and across Michigan fill an estimated 545,000 skilled-labor jobs coming open through 2026.

The Going PRO campaign, spearheaded by the Talent and Economic Development (Ted) Department of Michigan, will highlight a diverse range of high-skilled trade occupations and industries – careers Ted collectively refers to as Professional Trades. Going PRO aims to dispel the myths about Professional Trades as “dark, dirty and dangerous” and showcase numerous career options, from welders, millwrights and electrical lineworkers to medical sonographers, web developers and industrial mechanics.

“There is incredible demand for skilled workers throughout our state, especially in the Grand Traverse region,” said Stephanie Beckhorn, Ted’s acting director. “Together with our partners in the public and private sectors, we have a big job to do in helping employers fill this enormous talent pipeline in Professional Trades, mostly in the fields of construction, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, automotive and information technology.”

Among those participating in today’s press conference to launch the campaign in Northwest Michigan were Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers; state Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington; state Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona; Northwestern Michigan College Vice President for Lifelong and Professional Learning Marguerite Cotto; Chief Operating Officer of Northwest Michigan Works! Terry Vandercook; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Director of Government Relations and Community Development Kent Wood; and Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District (TBAISD) Career-Tech Center Principal Patrick Lamb.

Northwest Michigan employers with available and anticipated openings for Professional Trades careers and apprenticeships, including Lear Corp., Sara Lee Frozen Bakery and AlcoTec Wire Corp. in Traverse City, M R Products Inc. in Copemish and many more were recognized during the news conference at Northwestern Michigan College’s Aero Park Campus in Traverse City. In addition, leaders from organized labor attended the event, including the Michigan Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 85, the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324.

“Traverse City is fortunate to have numerous advanced technology companies with high-skilled workers,” said Mayor Carruthers. “But without sufficient workers with the skills these employers need, businesses and communities like Traverse City can’t stay competitive or drive growth for the benefit of our workers and residents.”

The Going PRO campaign is an effort unprecedented in state history that ultimately supports the recruitment and retention of talent to address Michigan’s shortage in Professional Trades candidates.

“We applaud Gov. Whitmer and Ted for partnering with a variety of organizations around the state with the aim of encouraging men and women who want good-paying jobs, with benefits and a pension, to take advantage of Professional Trades career learning opportunities and apprenticeship programs that train the vast majority of skilled workers in the state,“ said Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council President Steve Claywell.

The Going PRO campaign is an effort unprecedented in state history that ultimately supports the recruitment and retention of talent to address Michigan’s shortage in Professional Trades candidates.

“Closing the skills gap requires more than talk,” Cotto said. “The partnerships and alliances forming between educational institutions, governmental entities, nonprofits and employers as part of Going PRO are among the most effective ways we can ensure that our Northwest Michigan workforce is sufficiently prepared to meet today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities.”

“Demand is soaring for the type of Professional Trades education that the TBAISD Career-Tech Center provides, with waitlists projected for programs in electrical and allied health occupations in the 2019-20 school year,” Principal Lamb said. He cited the TBAISD’s electrical occupations program as a high-reward path for students to consider.

“Our electrical occupations students are currently making, or are on track to earn, more than $100,000 annually as 20-year-olds,” said Lamb, who introduced three TBAISD Career Tech students as examples of Professional Trades success stories:

  • Shelby Sineway, 18, of Suttons Bay High School, will attend NMC this fall to study welding fabrication.
  • Nathan Keech, 18, of Traverse City West High School, is a Precision Machining Technology student employed at Clark Manufacturing as a CNC Operator.

“Each of these Professional candidates is doing extremely well,” Lamb said. “We plan to share more Traverse-area success stories as the Going PRO campaign moves forward to inspire more students and their families to explore Professional Trades.”

While the TBAISD Career-Tech Center is attracting record enrollment numbers across many of its programs offering training for high-skilled labor, local industry leaders say more needs to be done to fill Northwest Michigan’s talent pipeline. The Traverse City chamber is among eight regional chambers of commerce – along with Lansing, Detroit, Flint, Saginaw County, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Southwest Michigan and Grand Rapids – that have announced their support for Going PRO and bringing more Professional Trades talent into the state’s workforce, Wood noted.

“We’re all trying to do different things in our respective regions,” Wood said. “But we’re all in agreement on supporting Going PRO and encouraging state policies that address the workforce talent gap.”

Michigan employers’ ability to find highly skilled and capable employees is more difficult than ever and is cited as a top concern in the most recent Michigan Future Business Index Report.

“Expanding the conversation about Professional Trades in Northwest Michigan is essential – too many people in our region are unaware these careers are in high demand, pay quality wages and are highly rewarding,” Sen. VanderWall said.

Dated perceptions of careers in Professional Trades combined with emerging technologies and baby boomers retiring has led to a steady decline in the number of people with the skills needed to fill these viable careers. Ted-commissioned research shows:

  • Only 1 in 3 Michigan parents encourage children to enter Professional Trades.
  • Interest in pursuing Professional Trades varies by region, with only 10% in the northern Lower Peninsula that includes the Grand Traverse region saying they’ll pursue a training certificate.
  • Approximately half of Michigan’s high school students, young adults and parents lack knowledge about the value and benefits that apprenticeships offer in Professional Trades, with only 13% of high school students considering apprenticeships a good career path option.

“The Going PRO campaign is delivering the right message at the right time to the right audiences,” said state Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “People are getting back to work and families are coming back to Michigan — and we owe a great deal of that to the resurgence of skilled trade industries. Going PRO is helping employees advance their careers and will help close the skills gap. I’m thrilled to see the program’s continued success and new partnership with the Grand Traverse region.”

The Going PRO campaign will build awareness and change perceptions about careers in the trades, as well as guide students, their parents and influencers to where they can find career pathways, pay information and job growth projections for these careers and find training and education opportunities.

Going PRO will help shape the vision of Michigan as a national leader for its multifaceted, diverse and highly skilled workforce – it’s a win-win effort that will benefit companies and communities,” said Vandercook, whose Michigan Works! region includes businesses from 10 counties in northwest Lower Michigan: Antrim, Leelanau, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Charlevoix, Emmet, Manistee, Missaukee and Wexford.

Advocates for careers in Professional Trades say Going PRO will help spur more people to consider choosing these “new collar” job openings. These careers “can provide opportunities for students and families to avoid tuition debt through options such as paid apprenticeships where students’ education and training are paid by the employer,” Rep. Cole said.

Going PRO is heralded as Michigan’s largest-ever awareness push dedicated to promoting Professional Trades. More than 90% of Michigan residents between ages 15 and 64 will experience Going PRO messaging in 2019 through social media platforms; earned media coverage; digital, TV and outdoor advertising; public forums; and other grassroots activities. Ted will also continue to partner with Michigan employers and educators throughout the Going PRO campaign to promote their respective Professional Trades career openings, skilled training programs and apprenticeship opportunities.

To learn more about Professional Trades careers, visit the Going PRO website.