Michigan has ‘hot’ jobs, experts say, but training and education are key to getting them

By Tim Martin, AP
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Michigan has some ‘hot’ jobs, but skills are key

LANSING, Mich. — Even as Michigan endures the nation’s highest unemployment rate, there are jobs available in select fields for people with the right skills.

Among the “hot jobs” highlighted by one college are pharmacy technicians, call center specialists, computer numerical control machinists and quality inspectors. The average wage for those jobs typically ranges from $12 to $16 an hour.

The trick? Making sure people have the training and education to take advantage of them.

Lansing Community College is so convinced the jobs are out there that it’s offering a money-back guarantee for students if they don’t get an offer of full-time work in the state within a year of finishing one of the four programs.

“There are many who are discouraged about finding a job,” said LCC President Brent Knight. “This program is designed to reach those people. … We know there are occupations that offer good-paying jobs to those with the required skills.”

Under the six-week Get a Skill, Get a Job training programs participants will sign a contract agreeing to full attendance and completion of assigned work. Those who show a good-faith effort to find a job but fail will get a refund after one year. The college will help students find jobs.

Michigan, with a 14.1 percent jobless rate in February, has lost more than 800,000 jobs in the past decade. But there are scattered job openings in certain occupations.

The Lansing area has openings with information technology companies setting up shop or expanding. Health care jobs, from registered nurses on down, also are available.

“Even as bad as the economy is, you always have employers hiring,” said Doug Stites, director of Capital Area Michigan WORKS, a state-affiliated work force development agency.

A problem is matching up the unemployed, many of whom used to work in manufacturing, with new types of work. Unemployment rates tend to be highest among those with the lowest education levels, and many of the jobs on the state’s list of the projected 50 hottest occupations through 2016 require at least two-year degrees.

The state projects there could be 3,000 job openings for registered nurses each year. Several hundred jobs could be available each year for computer system analysts, software engineers, industrial engineers, accountants and auditors.

Some high-demand jobs that typically won’t require college degrees — but do require some sort of post-high school education or technical training — include truck drivers, mechanics, administrative assistants and customer service representatives.

The state’s latest list of hot jobs, released last month, aims to get people planning for long-range career options — not necessarily work that is available now, when the economy is still struggling.

“This is more about jobs with a longer-term positive outlook,” said Bruce Weaver, an analyst with the state’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.

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