We know what they mean: Michigan research finds expanding demand for workers with advanced training and education

Business Leaders for Michigan recently released Business Leaders’ Insights: Michigan’s Talent Forecast. It offers some similarities and contrasts with our state. As we wrote recently, Washington business leaders have called for a major initiative to boost tech education at all levels in our state, citing a significant skills gap and growing demand.  A key element of our priorities for shared prosperity agenda focuses on education as the key to expanded opportunity

So it’s instructive to read what CEOs in other states see as the demand for talent.

Here are the key findings from Michigan: 

1. Michigan appears to have the necessary talent supply to meet demand for high-wage jobs over the next three years. However, short-term gaps do exist, particularly for certain high-wage skilled trades occupations.

2. Jobs that require more education and training pay above average wages and are expected to grow through 2018, while jobs that require less education and training and pay below average wages are expected to contract. Still, most of the jobs in Michigan today are lowskill and low-wage.

3. Annual job openings for low-skill occupations currently outpace openings for high-skill occupations, but the vast majority of occupations that pay above-average wages require more education and training.

4. Several demographic trends, including an aging workforce, a shrinking talent pipeline, and low educational attainment will continue to threaten our ability to meet future demand.

Washington appears to face a more immediate talent shortage than Michigan, largely as a result of our rapidly expanding technology industry. Rather than having the “necessary talent supply,” our business leaders cite a current and growing skills gap. From our foundation report

Although Washington ranks 13th nationally in private sector job creation, 25,000 job openings in our state went unfilled for three months or more in 2013 because of a mismatch between the skills needed by employers and the qualifications of prospective employees. These openings were heavily concentrated in high-demand fields such as health care, information technology and engineering. Absent concerted action to address this skills gap, that number is expected to increase to 50,000 unfilled jobs by 2017.

Yet, we can agree that postsecondary education is critical for Washingtonians seeking high-wage employment. And we know that meeting future demand – growing our economy – requires that the state expands the talent pipeline and boosts educational attainment. 

The Michigan report does not directly parallel the skills gap analysis we cited in the foundation report. But it reveals more similarities than differences and contains a lot of good information relevant to our Achieve priority and our goal of expanding the culture of opportunity to all Washingtonians.

While each state has unique demographic and economic attributes, policymakers and business leaders in every state recognize the importance of providing its residents the best chance of succeeding in an economy that increasingly values education attainment.