IT employers in the Southeast Michigan region are facing an increasingly challenging recruiting environment as demand for talent vastly outweighs supply. According to an analysis done by the Workforce Intelligence Network, there were more than 18,200 IT online job postings in the fourth quarter of 2015. That is nearly six times the number of IT completions (3,150 certificates and degrees earned from Southeast Michigan institutions) in all of 2014.

Further, today’s overwhelming IT skills gap threatens to grow. As many as one quarter of the current IT labor force is at or near retirement age, and the region’s labor market in general continues to shrink. As shown in WIN’s labor market reports for Q4 2015, labor force participation has dropped by 21,126 individuals (0.9 percent) between 2014 and 2015 and has been on a steady decline or stagnant since 2009.

The gap between supply and demand for IT occupations has never been larger, and with skills in IT being such a sought-after commodity across industries, employers from all sectors are feeling the pressure.

The current talent pipeline for IT professionals is simply not robust enough to deal with such high demand. Innovative and bold steps need to be taken to improve and re-establish the talent pipelines and overall talent ecosystem for IT in the Southeast Michigan region. Fortunately, the region is a burgeoning IT and innovation hub where some organizations have taken a proactive approach in using a not-so-modern idea with a new application: IT apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships offer workers of any age the opportunity to gain hands-on experience serving as productive members of an employer’s staff at the same time they undergo formal job-related education and training. Typically, apprentices alternate time between the classroom and on-the-job experience. The amount of time depends on the structure of the apprenticeship designed in collaboration with the employer. Southeast Michigan currently has $11 million in federal grants to help employers offer apprenticeships.

Over five years, the funds will support the coordination of the apprenticeship themselves, provide support to apprentices to ensure their success on the job and make available resources (human, financial and other) to help offset some employer expenses. Research shows that apprenticeships are an effective way to groom and retain deployable talent, especially important when it is hard to find workers with needed technical skills.

At a recent Opportunity Detroit Tech Council meeting, there was a panel discussion between representatives from local organizations that coordinate area IT apprenticeships, includingDetroit Labs, Grand Circus, Focus: Hope and Henry Ford College. The discussion focused on the use of these programs as an avenue to bolster the ranks of individuals employable in the IT field. Topics of discussion included the educational background of students entering the programs and the apprenticeship model compared to a two- or four-year degree program. Though these panelists represented organizations that operate differently, the conversation heavily relied on the need for various actions, including:

  • Increasing the talent pool
  • Engaging employers and partners
  • Fostering home-grown talent

With the collaboration of industry partners and other regional stakeholders, IT apprenticeship programs have the potential to aid in the realignment of a fragmented talent pipeline and address the immense gap between supply-and-demand regarding labor force participation.

The organizations involved in the IT apprenticeship panel at the Opportunity Detroit Tech Council meeting have taken steps to address the regional talent gap. They have formed partnerships, collaborated with other organizations to get an accurate read on the needs of industry and community alike, and are heavily focused on solutions. This includes providing those within the region that may not be right for a two- or four-year degree program a chance to get involved in an exciting and lucrative field. Hopefully their success will encourage other organizations to take the same or similar path.

For more information about IT and other apprenticeships in Southeast Michigan or the Opportunity Detroit Tech Council, contact

This blog post was developed with data and research compiled by John Sullivan, Project Manager of Business Partnerships at WIN.

Share On