Skilled trades build up high school grads


A member of the Elzinga & Volkers team works at the Spectrum Health Beltline Integrated Care Center job site. Photo via

It’s back-to-school time again, and for many West Michigan high school seniors, their last year will be both exciting and a little nerve-racking.

If they haven’t already, seniors will start to plan for life after high school, and for most of them, life away from mom and dad. Many questions will be on their mind: What will I do next? Do I have the means to go to college? What if I want to start working and living on my own now? How will I make enough money to support myself? What am I passionate about? With dreams of job security, a fair wage and meaningful work, it seems almost impossible to please our young Michiganders.

However, there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and I believe it lies in the growing demand for skilled trades in construction.

Skilled trades workers in the construction industry are in high demand now and will continue to be for at least the next decade. Yes, this is the industry I work in, so I might have a bias toward wanting more skilled, enthusiastic workers on our job sites. But it’s more than that. I know what the industry is seeking, and right now, all construction trades have a large sign hanging above their names: WORKERS WANTED.

So now that I’ve busted that one wide open, I’ll let you in on a few more industry secrets.

  • 27 percent of people with post-secondary trade licenses or certificates earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient
  • Almost 467,000 workers will be needed for skilled trades in the construction industry through 2017
  • The construction industry constitutes nearly 5 percent of statewide employment and continues to become an important source of jobs in Michigan’s economy
  • The median wage for a skilled trade worker is around $21 an hour, compared to a median of $16 an hour for all other occupational trades
  • Successful employment for skilled trades expanded by 2.1 percent in 2013 and is expected to grow by 7.4 percent through 2020
  • Demand for skilled trades is projected to grow by 2.1 percent in the upcoming years, compared to 1.3 percent for all other occupational trades

So there you have it — an occupation that provides a solid, reliable earning for you as you take part in building institutions that change lives and enhance communities. The job market for skilled trades in construction is at an all-time high right now.

So, as you discuss post-high school opportunities with the young people in your life or if you are one of those young people, don’t overlook the skilled trades as a viable substitute for a college degree or better yet, as a great supplement to formal education. The combination of a formal education and a skilled trade will make you a very valuable asset to any prospective employer.

And you don’t have to look far to find out how to become an exciting part of Michigan’s rebounding economy. To get started, check out these programs:


Youth Build, U.S.A.

Construction Workforce Development Alliance

Construction Workforce Development Alliance of West Michigan

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Michigan Works! Hourly Wages Report

State of Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives 

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