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Michigan Vocational and Trade Colleges

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 90 percent of Michigan residents 25 and older between 2009 and 2013 had a high school diploma or higher. With a population of over four million people and an unemployment rate of just 5.3 percent (as of July 2015), the workforce is becoming more competitive. And jobs in the state are abundant, as Michigan placed fifth in overall job growth between 2010 and 2015, reported Pew Charitable Trusts.

Attending one of the many Michigan technical schools may be a wise decision, as the job market is becoming more competitive across the U.S.

Vocational education trends and opportunities in Michigan

Education is taken quite seriously in the state of Michigan. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are nearly one million students in Michigan and 107 postsecondary institutions. Many of these students have been flocking to Michigan technical schools. In 2010 alone, students in Michigan received:

  • 15,935 certificates that took less than one year
  • 11,360 certificates that took one year or more
  • 29,318 associate degrees

According to a 2015 study by Business Leaders of Michigan, Michigan ranks 26th in technical degrees and certificates in technical skills. In 2010, the most popular vocational field of study, with the most students earning certificates and associate degrees in this area, was by far health sciences.

Careers for graduates of Michigan trade schools

Vocational graduates in Michigan have a lot of career options. Graduates of Michigan vocational schools especially fare well in today's economy. According to data from the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth, between 2002 and 2012, there was a 15.1 percent employment growth for those with vocational training or an associate's degree.

There are a number of growing careers in Michigan that don't require a four-year degree, but may require a certificate or an associate degree. Here are just a few careers that are projected to have huge growth in the next decade. Projected growth is between 2012 and 2022 and data is from Projections Central.

Associate Degree

Job Title

Growth in Michigan (2012-2022)

Total Projected Jobs in Michigan

Physical Therapist Aides



Occupational Therapy Assistants



Veterinary Technologists and Technicians



Respiratory Therapists



Postsecondary Non-Degree Award or Certificate

Job Title

Growth in Michigan (2012-2022)

Total Projected Jobs in Michigan

Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters



Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders



Massage Therapists



Expert advice on vocational education in Michigan with Phil Santer

For advice and information on vocational education and the job market in Michigan, we caught up with Phil Santer. He's the vice president of business development at Ann Arbor SPARK, a company that works with businesses, in Ann Arbor and other areas of Michigan to help grow, invest and create jobs in the state.

How do you view a vocational education versus a four-year degree?

Businesses are going to need all types off skill-sets. They'll need not only people who have gone to a four-year college, but also those who are able to demonstrate a skill. I think the workforce is becoming increasingly skill-based and you need to be able to demonstrate you can do specific work and to also demonstrate that you can learn new skill-sets.

How do vocational graduates fare in Michigan, compared to graduates of four-year colleges?

You get a much better understanding of how a business operates when you get an understanding from a vocational standpoint. If you're willing to invest time in an organization and to learn how it ticks, you're going to be successful in moving up in that organization and will have a better understanding of how it works.

What industries in Michigan fit best with vocational education?

I see a need in all different sectors. We have lots of discussions related to it, and I see a specific need in the industries of software development, manufacturing, various production sectors and in health care. Really any growing industries, I see a huge need. I can't see why a company wouldn't want to have those types of skill-sets available.

When looking at resumes, what's your initial response when you see that someone went to a trade school instead of a four-year college? What do you assume about what they have to offer?

I view it as having a knowledge-base within a specific area. If there's a need in an organization for that skill-set, I think that's going to be a benefit to your resume. What I then ask is: How can you apply that knowledge and demonstrate those skills? I think what an organization deals with is going to change over time, and a vocational education shows you understand and possess technical skills, but also have the ability to learn future skill-types.

About the Expert

Phil Santer is the Vice President of Business Development at Ann Arbor SPARK. He earned his MBA degree from the Wayne State University


  1. State & County Quickfacts,United States Census Bureau, Michigan, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/26000.html
  2. Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Michigan, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mi.htm
  3. Economy at a Glance, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Michigan, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.mi.htm
  4. "Which states Have the Most Growth Since the Recession?", The Pew Charitable Trusts, Jake Grovum, May 13, 2015, http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/5/13/which-states-have-the-most-job-growth-since-the-recession
  5. Educational Attainment & Job Market Success, Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, Jason Palmer, http://milmi.org/article.asp?ARTICLEID=748&title=+Educational+Attainment+&PAGEID=67&Pubdate=&subid=200&Visited=true)
  6. State Education Data Profiles, National Center for Education Statistics, Michigan, 2012-2013, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/stateprofiles/sresult.asp?mode=short&s1=26
  7. "Business Leaders' insights: How Higher Education Can Make Michigan Become a Top Ten State," Business Leadership for Michigan, February 4, 2015, http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/939177/25948345/1423709230307/BLM+Higher+Ed+Report+2015.pdf?token=Py3pAB9tSJqOTBR4p8STlVzDpTI%3D
  8. Career/Technical Education Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, 2010, https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ctes/tables/S101.asp
  9. Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
Vocational Schools in Michigan
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