THE BLOG
09/13/2016 01:54 pm ET Updated Sep 14, 2017

Skilled Trades in Michigan: A Tale of Two Senators

As Michigan students head back to school, Michigan families need to take a minute to contact two state senators, to thank one for looking out for their kids, and to urge the other one to start to do so right away.

The topic is skilled trades, a world of work that was supposed to die during the Great Recession and never come back. Evidently, someone forgot to tell that to the plumbers, pipe fitters, and other skilled tradesmen, whose annual salaries average $41000 a year--and these fields have openings they can't fill now.

Getting information about these opportunities to young people has been a bit of challenge, and that's where Senator Ken Horn comes in. Rules governing the skilled trades have been added here and there for the last thirty years, creating a patchwork of state law that made skilled trade regulations confusing, and sometimes contradictory. By introducing the Skilled Trades Regulation Act, Senator Horn has taken a well-meaning mix of skilled trade regulations and made them as easy to understand as reading the newspaper.

In introducing the Act to the public, Senator Horn said "Creation of the Skilled Trades Regulation Act will update and revise the relevant laws into one universal code that would ensure they meet the highest standards for enforcement and efficiency."

This is excellent news for everyone in Michigan, especially students who like to work with their hands. The Skilled Trades Regulation Act is one legislative effort that will help students understand the strength and viability of many important career paths in the skilled trades, and most of them are attainable with two years or less of training after high school. When it comes to creating options after high school for students, Senator Horn's innovative thinking is leading the way, as this bill has already had one round of Senate hearings.

The same cannot be said for another bill that would do even more to help students shape their futures after high school. House Bill 4552 makes sure Michigan students and families are working with school counselors that have the latest information on career and college opportunities in Michigan. Many of Michigan's school counselors report they receive little training in college advising, and even less in the skilled trades. By including this training in their existing requirement for professional development, House Bill 4552 would help counselors understand the latest trends in career and college opportunities, information that's been shown to be needed by students as early as age 10.

This bill passed the House by a wide margin, and with bipartisan support, in January. Since then, it has languished in the Senate Education Committee, even though the bill has received the support of business leaders, law enforcement officers, counselors, and retired military officers. Members of the Senate leadership have indicted the bill will easily pass the Senate floor, but it has yet to even be scheduled for hearings by the Senate Education Committee, which has not met to discuss any issue in the last six weeks of legislative session.

All of Michigan's students deserve an opportunity to understand all of the career and college options that await them after high school, and your voice can make that happen. Take a moment to contact Senator Ken Horn's office to thank him for helping Michigan's students, then contact the Senate Education Committee and urge them to take up House Bill 4552. In this time of incredible postsecondary opportunities, our students deserve easier access to all of them.