New Research: Immigrant Impact on Michigan’s “Middle Skills” Worker Shortage

Michigan’s workforce is rapidly aging and retiring. Half of the job openings expected in the  next decade are anticipated to be part of the “middle skills” category—jobs that require training beyond a high school diploma, but require less than a four-year college degree. These jobs include many skilled trade positions such as dental hygienists, insurance sales agents, machinists, registered nurses, and a variety of office jobs.

While much has been written (and for good reason) about the importance of attracting and retaining highly-educated STEM workers (who have disproportionate impacts on economic growth, job creation, and regional prosperity), it is the loss of middle skill workers that  likely to create the largest number of unfilled positions in Michigan’s workforce in the near future.

New research from Michael Richardson and our friend Amanda Bergson-Shilcock of the National Skills Coalition (Amanda is formerly of WE Global’s Philadelphia partner organization, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians) released in January 2018 highlights the middle skills shortages in Michigan and Maryland, the importance that immigrant labor plays in filling unmet talent demands, and suggests how  to help immigrants  connect with the opportunities.

Immigrants represent a critical component of any strategy in Michigan to close the middle skills workforce gap. In a  five-year, ten-year, or fifteen-year horizon, immigrants account for all of the population and workforce growth in Michigan. In fact, since 1990, Michigan’s immigrant population has grown more than 85% and since 2000 immigrants have accounted for all of the state’s population growth.

The National Skills Coalition research highlights important federal funding sources to help prepare immigrants with the skills demanded by Michigan’s economy, including opportunities within the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training program. The research credits the work of Governor Snyder’s Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) as playing a leading role in to help build more inclusive workforce development policies.

Global Detroit’s efforts to build a global region include connecting immigrant talent to the unmet talent needs in Southeast Michigan. In addition to tracking national best practices, we launched the Champions for Growth campaign to give business and economic development leaders a voice on immigration. To find out more about how you can join our movement, visit the Champions for Growth campaign  and consider signing our pledge.



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