Sixty by 30 Talent Tour highlights regional efforts to boost skills and create pathways to fill high-demand, high-wage jobs in Northeast Michigan

Contact: Erica Quealy 517-582-2961
Agency: Labor and Economic Opportunity

State announces region's high-wage, high-demand career data through 2028 and promotes tuition-free paths to those careers through programs like Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners

RELEASE DATE: Sept. 20, 2021

GAYLORD, Mich - The Michigan Sixty by 30 Talent Tour zero in on the state's Northeast Michigan Prosperity Region today as state and local talent leaders celebrate the growing number of working-age adults with a skill certificate or college degree toward the goal of 60% by 2030 and highlighted opportunities for more Michiganders to take advantage of low- or no-cost training to excel in high-demand careers.

"Postsecondary education attainment is critical to the success of our workers and businesses alike," Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Susan Corbin said. "Whether it's an apprenticeship, skilled trade program, community college, four-year university or beyond, these are the paths that lead to exciting, high-wage career opportunities in high-demand fields for Michiganders and provide a flowing talent pipeline for businesses so they can compete and thrive here."

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

Data compiled by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives shows Northeast Michigan (Alcona, Alpena, Cheboygan, Crawford, Iosco, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle and Roscommon) is home to nearly 54,000 jobs and is projected to have almost 7,500 job openings every year through 2028. Of those projected openings, at least 1,700 will typically require a postsecondary certification, an associate degree or apprenticeship. 

Since Michigan Reconnect launched this February, over 80,000 state residents have been accepted into the program, including more than 940 in Northeast Michigan. Futures for Frontliners had another 85,000 applicants with more than 15,000 accepted into the program, including over 1,300 in the region. Since Gov. Gretchen 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%.

Alpena Community College President Dr. Don MacMaster said initiatives like Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners provide hope for older workers who thought postsecondary education or training were out of their reach.

"The community college mission is to change lives through education, and there's nothing more life-changing than the opportunity to gain new skills, achieve goals and pursue a better future," he said. "We support both Futures and Reconnect as programs of great merit."

Within the state's new set of employment projections, data shows several long-term trends that will impact the Northeast Michigan region and statewide labor market. Among them are an aging population that will continue to spur 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 careers 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.

In Northeast Michigan, for example, some of the high-demand, high-wage health care occupations projected to grow the most through 2028 include diagnostic medical sonographer, which is projected to grow by 33.3% and requires an associate degree to earn $27 to $35 per hour; respiratory therapist, which is projected to grow by 25% and requires an associate degree to earn $25 to $30 per hour; and medical assistant, which is projected to grow by 9.1% and requires a postsecondary certificate to earn $15 to $18 per hour.

The state's aging trend will also impact other industries like maritime, construction and manufacturing. In Northeast Michigan, occupations with expected rates of high growth include captain, mate and pilot of water vessels, which is projected to grow by 16.7% and requires a postsecondary certificate to earn $45 to $76 per hour; electrician, which is projected to grow by 7.1% and requires an associate degree or apprenticeship to earn $21 to $37 per hour; operating engineer, which is projected to grow by 5% and requires a postsecondary certificate to earn $18 to $29 per hour; and, machinist, which is expected to grow by 2.7% and requires an associate degree or apprenticeship to earn $15 to $24 per hour. 

"We work with businesses every day and access to skilled talent is their No. 1 need," said Michigan Works! Northeast Consortium Director Marisue Moreau. "Over the next several years, our region is projected to see an influx of job openings that require more than just a high school diploma. With the variety of training programs available right now, such as the Governor's Michigan Reconnect and the many training programs that Michigan Works! has for job seekers and employers, there has never been a better time for people to consider upgrading their skills and training so they can be successful in a rewarding career."  

The Sixty by 30 Talent Tour also showcased the success story of an Alpena Community College student whose career pursuit reflects the latest trends in high-demand, high-wage jobs in growing sectors across the state.

Nate Spicer, a 35-year-old Michigan Reconnect program participant, recently enrolled in Alpena Community College. The married father of two young girls is currently taking pre-requisite courses for the college's nursing program which he plans to enter next summer. After graduating from Alpena High School in 2004, Spicer took classes at Alpena Community College but had to leave to get a full-time job to support his mother. He said going back to school and finishing his degree seemed out of reach until his wife told him about Michigan Reconnect.

"Cost was always a big barrier when I considered returning to school, especially when our family would have to adjust to a single-family income," he said. "My past student debt was put on a credit card, which is not ideal. Student loans weren't an option for our family so Michigan Reconnect was a lifesaver. Imagine my surprise when I saw my tuition bill for the fall semester, and I only owed $400.00. Michigan Reconnect allowed me to afford to take more classes to pursue my degree even faster."  

Michigan Reconnect is the largest effort in state history to ensure that Michiganders who are 25 or older and do not have a college degree - more than 4.1 million in all - will have an opportunity to earn an associate degree or skills certificate with free or discounted tuition. The $30 million bipartisan investment launched February 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. More information is available at   

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.