Michigan’s Going PRO, largest effort to help fill state’s talent gap 

Martha Grier, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Mayor Mike Duggan

It’s no secret that Michigan has a talent gap. There are currently over 100,000 open positions on the Pure Michigan Talent Connect website and it is estimated that the professional trades fields will add 15,000 new jobs each year through 2024.  

Many of those jobs will go unfilled.  

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. 

There is a great need for individuals with professional trade experience. These highly skilled individuals are in extraordinary demand for careers in healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing, construction and automotive. 

On Monday, July 8, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and leaders in business, education and workforce development announced the Detroit kickoff of Going PRO in Michigan. This new public-private partnership is one of the nation’s most ambitious statewide education and awareness campaigns to help employers across the state fill an estimated 545,000 skilled-labor jobs opening up from now through 2026. 

Wayne County Community College District Assistant to the Chancellor for Board and Public Relations Martha Grier

Spearheaded by the Talent and Economic Development (Ted) Department of Michigan, the Going PRO  campaign highlights a diverse range of high-skilled trade occupations and industries – careers 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 line workers to medical sonographers, dental hygienists, anesthesia technologists, surgical technologists, web developers, and industrial mechanics.   

“If we want to make our state a home for opportunity for working people and businesses, we have to get serious about closing the skills gap,” Whitmer said. “We know that the vast majority of careers in Michigan require some type of education beyond high school, but only 45 percent of Michiganders have this additional education. I set the state’s first goal to increase the number of people with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 60 percent by 2030 because everyone deserves a pathway to a high-paying job, and the Going PRO campaign will help us achieve this goal.”   

Professional trades provide the opportunity to leverage one’s talents, work ethic, and know-how to do things that matter. Closing the skills gap would mean more people bringing home the kind of paycheck that will make a difference in their lives and the community.  

“Going PRO is the right step toward making sure that Detroit – the city that put the world on wheels –is a place for opportunity where working people and businesses can thrive,” Duggan said. “By building a strong, skilled workforce, together we can improve the quality of life for every one of us, get people on the right track toward good-paying careers and establish Southeast Michigan communities as a great place to live, work and play.”  

Michigan needs to put in work to address the state’s long- and short-term talent needs.  

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 percent of high school students considering apprenticeships a good career path option. 

Taylor Barnowskya graduate of Lake City High School will have a clear advantage post-high school. He will be able to walk into a college program with previous knowledge thus helping his chances of getting into the career he loves. “When I can successfully repair one of these giant machines I am actually very excited because I know someone else can do their job and make their money all because I could do my job correctly and earn my share of the money.” 

Detroit Regional Chamber CEO and President Sandy Baruah

Leaders from organized labor who attended the event also endorsed the Going PRO  campaign, including  SEIU Healthcare Michigan,  IBEW Local 58, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights  and  Operating Engineers Local 324.

“We applaud Gov. Whitmer and Ted for partnering with labor to encourage men and women who want good-paying jobs, with benefits and a pension, to take advantage of Professional Trades learning opportunities and apprenticeship programs that train the vast majority of skilled workers in the state,” Acevedo said. 

Everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue a fulfilling career – whether it’s through a certificate in the Professional Trades, technical apprenticeship, community college or a four-year degree, said Furquan Ahmed, senior vice chancellor at Wayne County Community College District.  

Many of these skilled trade careers often require less schooling and less debt than a traditional four-year degree. 

“At WCCCD we have more than 110 career programs designed specifically to meet the demands of today’s rapidly changing job market,” Ahmed said. 

The Going PRO campaign directs students, their parents and influencers to Going-PRO.com, where they can find career pathways, salary information and job growth projections for careers, along with training and education opportunities, said Beckhorn, who introduced seven Wayne County Community College District students as examples of Professional Trades success stories 

“There is an incredible demand for educating and training skilled workers throughout our state, especially in the metro Detroit region,” said Ted Acting Director Stephanie Beckhorn. “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.”  

The Detroit chamber is among eight regional chambers of commerce – along with Lansing, Traverse City, 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. 

“Without sufficient workers with the skills employers need, businesses and regions like Detroit can’t stay competitive or drive growth,” Baruah said. “Going PRO will help shape the vision of Michigan as a national leader for its multifaceted, diverse and highly skilled workforce.”  

Emerging technologies and retiring baby boomers have also led to a steady decline in the number of people with the skills needed to fill these viable careers. Ted-commissioned research shows: 

  • Interest in Professional Trades varies by region, with only 8 percent in Southeast Michigan saying they’ll pursue a training certificate.  
  • Only 4 in 10 students and young adults in Southeast Michigan say they’ve had meaningful conversations with their parents about Professional Trades, the lowest in the state. 

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

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