Preparing the Next Generation for the Skilled Trades

There has been a lot of talk lately about the shortage of workers in the skilled trades and how that will affect our home state of Michigan (and the nation) moving forward. People have proposed many different solutions, but one way to promote the future of manufacturing and the trades is to go directly to that future. This is why D+M Metal Products opens our doors for school tours. We like to take these opportunities to show kids the interesting work we do and to tell them there are opportunities for successful careers outside of the usual college track.

The Gap in Skilled Trades in Michigan

The deficit between the number of necessary Michigan workers in skilled trade positions and the number expected to go into these fields is approximately half a million by 2026. Last year the State of Michigan set aside $3 million in order to address this problem, announcing the state’s largest advertising campaign dedicated to raising awareness of this problem. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist stated, “We want to really invest in this heavily because there is a big gap to fill. We think that presents an opportunity. There are a lot of talented, hard working people in Michigan and we want to make sure they know that there’s a pathway for them to have a high wage and high quality career here.”

One reason that high school kids are not choosing the trades is that most of them are under the impression that college and career success are intertwined. For years, students have been told that college is the only way to have a successful, enjoyable, lucrative career. As a result, many take that career path without fully exploring other ones.

Manufacturing is no longer just the line work that automotive workers did, beginning with Henry Ford’s factory and continuing on to create the success of the Big Three. Automation has revolutionized many industries including automotive. Now employers are looking for workers who can code and who are comfortable with information technology as well as those who want to learn useful skills.

The good news for students who decide to look into the trades is that most do not require the same training investment as a four-year degree, but they pay 45% more than the median income in Michigan. It’s no secret that Millennials are struggling to achieve financial independence with the loads of student debt they have acquired from going to college. Many do not find a lucrative job after graduation either. The trades offer better pay and less debt. That sounds like a winning combination.

Still, employers who hire skilled workers need to make the effort to educate our young people about what these jobs entail. Recently groups from two local schools, Grand Rapids Christian and Holy Trinity, toured D+M Metal. We were able to show them our equipment, how our tradesmen operate it, and what we produce for our customers.

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We employ welders and machinists in our company. Both of these require training after high school. A welder can take classes at Grand Rapids Community College and work for us part-time while going to school, eventually working up to a certified weld position. An entry-level machine operator can become a highly skilled operator and move up to become a lead person, a quality control inspector, and eventually a manager. We also have skilled machine setup operators for CNC press brake and CNC laser and turret press. These positions utilize similar job requirements and mental aptitude but are typically trained on the job.

At D+M Metal we hire young people when they graduate from high school and offer them the opportunity to get their training while they work for us if they are interested in doing more. We are seeking motivated and proactive workers who want to improve their skill sets and advance in the trades. We invest in them and they help us improve our company. It’s a win for everyone.

If you are a student who is interested in learning more about metal fabrication, please contact us. We also welcome inquiries from local schools or groups. Michigan needs skilled workers to make our state better. Is a welding or machinist career in your future?

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