Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

This is the first in a two-part series.

What does a worker need to be competitive in the job market in the New Year? It turns out that education is more important than ever. Projections show that over the next five years (through 2019) there will be no aggregate growth in employment for jobs that require a high school diploma or less. In fact, the total number employees in jobs that require no post-secondary training will drop by 18,322 by 2019. While jobs for low-skill workers are vanishing, jobs that require post-secondary training are on the rise.

Where the jobs are

In the coming five years, employers in Southeast Michigan will add more than 20,000 new jobs for workers with post-secondary education.

  • Of the total, 38 percent will require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Additionally, 37 percent of these total are considered “middle-skill.” Middle-skill jobs are those that pay a living wage (more than $15 per hour) and require more training than a high school diploma but do not require a bachelor’s degree.
  • The remaining 25 percent of the job growth will be for jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree (but require more than a high school diploma) but do not pay more than $15 per hour.

Workers without post-secondary training should not be too discouraged. Jobs that require a high school diploma or less have very high turnover and the employers will still need a consistent stream of workers to fill open positions. Furthermore, while the total number of jobs that do not require education beyond high school is dropping, these jobs still represent more than 65 percent of total employment.

Workers with no education beyond high school should be empowered to gain new credentials and skills. The message from the data is clear: If a worker wants to earn a living wage and have upward mobility, the only way is through additional education and training.

Show me the money

A bachelor’s degree is often a far reach for a worker with little resources and time. But post-secondary training through a certificate program or associate’s degree program is often more attainable. With 37 percent of coming job growth (more than 7,500 new jobs by 2019) in middle-skill jobs that pay more than $15 per hour, a worker can increase their economic mobility and chances for future success by adding to their skills with a certificate or associate’s degree.

Wage per hourAnnual salary

The difference in wages for workers who gain additional skills is tremendous. If a worker with no post-secondary training earns a certificate and finds one of more than 7,500 new middle-skill jobs, their wage is likely to go from $10 per hour to $15 per hour. This would boost their annual salary from $20,800 to $31,200. A huge jump. In addition, most middle skill jobs pay more than $15 per hour and many pay upward of $20 per hour. This moves a worker’s annual salary to $41,600, very close to Michigan’s median family income of $48,000 per year.

Money talks and so does opportunity. Southeast Michigan’s future lies in an educated workforce with high-wage and high-skill jobs.

For more information on where to find business services, new employment, or credential programs in your area see your local Michigan Works! or community college.

WIN’s research team will be exploring middle-skill jobs throughout the months of January and February. Watch for a full report about middle-skill jobs in Southeast Michigan and for a follow-up blog post about middle-skills in February. For more data and research from WIN, visit

This blog post was prepared with research and content from Colby Spencer-Cesaro, director for research, Workforce Intelligence Network.

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