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Gov. Whitmer launches statewide Sixty by 30 Talent Tour with kickoff event at Upper Peninsula's Bay College in Escanaba

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today joined with Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) officials and Upper Peninsula education, workforce development and business leaders at Bay College in Escanaba to kick off a statewide Sixty by 30 Talent Tour, touting the high-wage, high-demand careers and the state's success at increasing the number of working-age adults with a skill certificate or college degree toward the goal of 60% by 2030.

The tour's aim is to highlight the state's latest Sixty by 30 achievements and promote awareness of how programs such as Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners are creating a rewarding path to in-demand careers, such as those recently announced in a new report on U.P. career outlook forecast data through 2028

Data compiled by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives show the Upper Peninsula is home to over 100,000 jobs and is projected to have almost 14,000 job openings every year through 2028. Of those projected openings, at least 3,600 will typically require a postsecondary certification, an associate degree or apprenticeship.

"In the UP and across Michigan, registered apprenticeships, industry-recognized certifications, a technical certification, an associate's degree, a bachelor's degrees, or beyond, can open so many doors to opportunity and help Michiganders get good-paying, high-skill jobs in high-demand, high-growth industries," said Gov. Whitmer said during a news conference at Bay College's state-of-the-art water science laboratory in the Besse Health and Technology Building. "Thanks to bipartisan programs like Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect and the work of core community institutions like Bay College, we are putting tens of thousands of Michiganders on a tuition-free path to postsecondary education or skills training and helping them fill high-skill, high-demand jobs and support their families."

Since Michigan Reconnect launched this February, nearly 80,000 have been accepted to the program. Futures for Frontliners had another 85,000 accepted applicants with more than 15,000 already enrolled. Since Gov. Whitmer announced the Sixty by 30 goal, the percentage of working-age adults with a certificate, associate degree or higher has increased from 45% to 49%.

"If we continue our efforts, we will be on track to achieve our 60% goal by 2030," said LEO Acting Director Susan Corbin. "State government alone can't do what needs to be done. We need more partners to get on board and help us spread the word and encourage more Michiganders to consider their options."

Within the state's new set of employment projections, data show several long-term trends that will impact the U.P. and Michigan labor market. Among them are an aging population that will continue to drive demand for jobs in health care industries and occupations, the continued use of online shopping that will drive changes in the distribution of retail-related jobs, and an increase in jobs that require postsecondary training or education.

Statewide data projections show Michigan's population is expected to grow by 3.6% through 2028. This population growth, however, is expected to be combined with a sharp 28% increase in people age 65 and older. Largely because the number of residents approaching retirement age is expected to outpace the count of new residents in the state, the Michigan labor force is expected to contract by 0.2% through 2028.

The driving force of Michigan's population change and labor force contraction will also govern the industries and occupations that will be needed most in the coming years. The aging of Michigan's population and workforce is expected to drive demand for many medical-related industries such as ambulatory health services, nursing and residential care and social assistance.

In the Upper Peninsula, for example, some of the high-demand, high-wage health care occupations projected to grow the most through 2028 include respiratory therapist, which is projected to grow by 12.5% and requires an associate degree to earn $23 to $29 per hour; physical therapist assistant, which is projected to grow by 14.3% and requires an associate degree to earn $22 to $29 per hour; and ambulatory health services, which includes outpatient services such as physician's offices and dentist's offices and is projected to increase nearly 8% through 2028.

The state's aging trend also affects Michigan's manufacturing sector, where miscellaneous manufacturing, which includes medical equipment manufacturing, is projected to grow at the fastest rate of all industries in the sector. In the Upper Peninsula, long-term industry employment projections through 2028 show increases of 13.5% in computer and electronic product manufacturing, 21.2% in machinery manufacturing and 19.5% in miscellaneous manufacturing.

Bay College is investing heavily to promote its water technology curriculum, Bay College President Laura Coleman said. Water technology workers in the U.S. tend to be older and lack gender and racial diversity in certain occupations. Nearly 85% of them are male and two-thirds are white, according to a 2018 report by the nonprofit Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program in Washington, D.C.

"Quite frankly, the state of Michigan is in a crisis mode for skilled, licensed water and wastewater operators and supervisors," Coleman said. "We at Bay College are proud to have developed the leading water technology program in the state of Michigan."

Today's event also celebrated three U.P. student success stories whose career pursuits reflect the latest trends in high-demand, high-wage jobs across the region in growing sectors such as manufacturing, water technology and health care:

  • Adam Williams, a 26-year-old Futures for Frontliners program participant, works in research and development at Engineered Machine Products (EMP) in Escanaba. The 2013 graduate of Gladstone Area High School is working full time while enrolled in Bay College's mechatronics program to learn more about the state-of-the-art technology EMP is using to develop next-generation robotic applications.
  • Another Futures for Frontliners success story, Laurie Fabbri is in Bay College's certified medical assistant program. The 44-year-old mother of two young children is using her newly learned knowledge while working at Cedar Hill Medical, a privately owned physician's office in Escanaba.
  • Thomas Thull, 20, is a 2019 graduate of Gladstone Area High School. He is enrolled in Bay College's water resource management program and an intern with the City of Grand Rapids Water Resource Recovery Facility.

Futures for Frontliners is a scholarship program announced by Gov. Whitmer in April 2020. The program launched last September, and more than 120,000 Michiganders submitted applications. The first program of its kind in the nation, Futures for Frontliners offers free in-district tuition to community college for Michiganders, with or without high school diplomas, who provided essential front-line services during COVID-19 Stay Home, Stay Safe orders between April and June 2020. The application period for this program has ended.

Michigan Reconnect is the largest effort in state history to ensure that more than 4.1 million Michiganders who are 25 or older and do not have a college degree will have an opportunity to earn an associate degree or skills certificate with free or discounted tuition. The $30M bi-partisan investment launched Feb. 2021 and will pay the cost of in-district tuition for eligible adults who want to pursue an associate degree or skills certificate at any of Michigan's public community colleges, including its three tribal colleges. The program also offers skills scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition through more than 70 private training schools with 120 programs that offer certificates in high-demand careers in industries such as manufacturing, construction, information technology, health care or business management. Learn more at