The following news item was originally published on on May 23, 2018. Please click here to view the original publication on

A new state-commissioned report shows at least half of Michigan’s high school students, young adults and parents lack knowledge about the value and benefits apprenticeships offer, with only 13 percent of high school students considering apprenticeships a good career path option.

To address the findings from the survey, state education and talent development leaders today kicked off Experience Sooner, a public awareness effort focused on elevating the knowledge of students, parents, educators and employers about the increasingly important role apprenticeships play in meeting Michigan’s current and future workforce needs.

Through 2024, Michigan will have more than 800,000 good-paying career openings in high-demand fields like information technology, health care and manufacturing, equating to nearly $50 billion in earnings on the table for Michiganders.

“A rapidly changing economy tied to technological innovation has created a new menu of career and apprenticeship opportunities for students and all Michiganders entering the workforce,” Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan Director Roger Curtis said during a news conference at the Michigan Educators and Apprenticeship Training Association’s (MEATA) annual conference in Traverse City.

“Experience Sooner is about connecting folks with these opportunities and educating all on the many benefits apprenticeships provide,” Curtis said. “It’s also about ensuring Michigan can continue to compete as a leader in developing top talent with the in-demand skills employers are so desperately seeking.”

Key research findings show:

  • Michigan high school students and young adults are three times as likely to say they’re not sure what an apprenticeship is compared with parents.
  • Students ages 14-30 are significantly more knowledgeable about the options of community colleges and four-year universities than apprenticeships.
  • At least 55 percent of parents say they are not knowledgeable about apprenticeship benefits.
  • Only 21 percent of parents view an apprenticeship as a good option following high school for their child or children.
  • Students in Southeast Michigan and West Michigan are similar in their knowledge of the potential benefits of apprenticeships at 44 percent, while other regions of the state are highly variable, ranging from 56 percent in Greater Lansing/Jackson to only 35 percent in the Great Lakes Bay Region that includes Genesee, Bay, Saginaw and Midland counties as well as the Thumb Region that includes Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola counties.
  • About 80 percent of high schoolers say their parents are the most influential people regarding career/job choices, with teachers and friends a distant second and third, respectively.

The online statewide survey was conducted last fall and is based on 400 student responses, including 197 high schoolers and 203 young adults, combined with 600 parent responses. The sample was balanced to closely reflect Michigan’s race/ethnicity, gender and geographic makeup.

To date, Michigan has nearly 16,000 active apprentices who are earning while learning, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In the past year, Michigan saw 42 new companies register apprenticeship programs, and 2,300 apprentices began their journey in various high-demand industries.

“Despite the obvious advantages of apprentices, there is a clear disconnect in Michigan’s understanding of apprenticeships,” said Janene Erne, apprenticeship administrator of the Advance Michigan Center for Apprenticeship Innovation (AMCAI). “We have important work to do in disproving these misperceptions and showing the demand for apprenticeships is growing as our aging workforce faces a wave of retirements.”

Experience Sooner features a streamlined website – – that houses all Michigan apprenticeship-related programming information in a single location and is tailored to the needs of students and employers. The initiative will take to the road with a series of public forums across the state this summer – including events in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Flint, Detroit, Saginaw and Lansing – featuring students and employers who will share apprenticeship success stories. It will be complemented by social and digital content that encourage people to learn more about Michigan’s unparalleled career-building opportunities.

The initiative aligns with current state efforts to elevate the perception of Professional Trades and dovetails with the Going PRO campaign.

One of the barriers Experience Sooner seeks to remedy is the public’s assumption that apprenticeships are invariably linked to automotive-related manufacturing. In fact, now more than ever, a wide range of Michigan employers are on the lookout for young, eager-to-learn apprentices interested in pursuing careers in information technology and computer science, healthcare, high-tech manufacturing as well as construction and other Professional Trades, such as plumbing, electrical and brick masonry.

“Best of all from a student perspective, you’re free of college tuition debt while learning and earning skills for jobs that pay an average salary of more than $60,000 per year,” said Shana Welch, executive director of talent acquisition for Trinity Health – Michigan Region and Mercy Health (West Michigan) & St. Joseph Mercy Health System (Southeast Michigan), who highlighted Mercy Health’s Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program as a Michigan success model.

Mercy Health’s apprenticeship program was created to meet local health care providers’ critical need for qualified medical assistants and provide an entry point for individuals to grow into a variety of careers in the industry. With this initiative, Mercy Health helps people move from challenging places to good jobs in health care. About 40 percent are people of color. Many were single moms struggling to find a path to move forward.

“We have combined funding sources since 2015 to train 87 medical assistant apprentices, and we were able to do this with no cost to the students,” Welch said. “Mercy Health paid the wages, and West Michigan Works! combined various funding streams to cover the apprentices’ education costs. It’s an excellent example of effective collaboration between government, public institutions and employers that the Experience Sooner campaign can help promote in more Michigan communities.”

Today’s campaign launch was highlighted by the announcement of an alliance between the Talent and Economic Development Department, AMCAI, Michigan’s Talent Investment Agency, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, Michigan Works! Association and MEATA. The alliance will offer Apprenticeship in a Day events across Michigan this summer to grow apprenticeship opportunities here at home. The aim is to dispel the belief that registration requirements for creating an apprenticeship program are expensive and time-consuming for employers. The events will also bring partners that employers need together in one place, at one time.

“Unlike Rome, registered apprenticeship programs can be built in a day with minimal prep work that typically requires one hour or less,” Erne said. “With more than 1,000 occupations recognized as ‘apprentice-able,’ the opportunity for Michigan businesses to develop the talent they need is well within reach.”

To learn more about Experience Sooner, visit

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