With the demand for skilled tradesmen increasing, opportunities provided by community colleges increase

Emily Battaglia, Writer

After all graduation rituals have come to a close, new alumni may find themselves heading to a four-year college similar to their former classmates. However, what many may not realize is that after high school there is a different way to obtain a degree – studying at a Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program.

“The state of Michigan feels there will be high wage, high skill and high demand in some skilled trade careers,” Career Preparation Coordinator Cheryl Reardon said. “We simply don’t have enough people going into those jobs.”

On Feb. 24, Governor Rick Snyder approved a $50 million grant to 18 Michigan community colleges to help boost skilled trades instruction; 21.5 million was matched by the community toward instructor training and equipment. By 2017, it is estimated that nearly 2.5 million skilled trade jobs will be added to the workforce, consequently making up about 40 percent of job growth.

“Not every university degree will give you a high chance of getting a job,” Reardon said. “Community college associates or certificates in a skilled trade are career specific and there is also a higher demand for workers.”

Skilled trades represent about one-third of the jobs in Michigan. This type of career includes jobs in manufacturing, health care, maintenance and repair, public safety and robotics. Junior Matt Hiller is one of the students who plans to enter this trade after graduation.

“I plan to go to some sort of technical school and get an associates degree in welding,” Hiller said. “I like working with my hands. I take classes at Genesee Career Institute for welding. I think it is a good career for me.”

Mott Community College is one of 18 schools that received the grant and currently offers occupational associate degree programs.

“Students need to research what path they want to take if they plan to attend a community college,” Reardon said. “They can take a one-year certificate, which earns them a specialty in one specific area; an associates degree, which takes two years and requires technical classes as well as general education classes; there are also classes that some may take if they plan on transferring to a four-year university.”

While a degree at a four-year university still has value, the importance of a certification in a skilled trade is rising. As more opportunities arise to gain experience in this field of work, the future looks bright for skilled tradesmen.