Skilled trades careers are high-tech, high-demand and high-wage

August 16, 2022 Rich Rezler

Caleb Rogers standing outside WCC welding lab
Recent WCC graduate Caleb Rogers stands in the WCC welding lab. (Photo by JD Scott)


The state of Michigan finds itself with a severe labor shortage in the professional trades, a mystifying scenario when you consider the following facts from the Michigan De-partment of Labor and Economic Outlook (LEO): 

Professional trades careers in Michigan pay about 39% higher than the statewide average for all occupations. Those same careers often require less schooling and student debt than a four-year degree. 

So, study for a shorter time and make more money? Win-win! 

Recent Washtenaw Community College graduate Caleb Rogers is a prime example of both of those points. The 19-year-old Saline resident was just one year removed from high school graduation and one month shy of starting a job that pays nearly $40 per hour when he earned a Welding Technology associate degree in May. 

The 20 college credits Rogers earned while he was a dual-enrolled student at Ypsilanti Lincoln High School — completing both welding and general education classes — gave him the head start needed to fi nish WCC’s welding program in just one year.

He graduated with high honors (3.8+ GPA) and as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.  On June 20, Rogers started a new job as a Maintenance Welder Craftsman at the Mara-thon Petroleum Corporation’s Detroit refinery making a base salary near $80,000, with a likelihood for regular overtime compensation.

That’s one job filled out of an estimated 47,000 annual openings in advanced manufacturing, automotive service, construction and energy careers across the state through 2028.

WCC has programs to prepare students for each of those fields. 

“Professional trades opportunities will continue to grow and we want Michiganders to be ready when those opportunities present themselves,” said LEO Office of Employment and training Director Stephani Beckhorn. 

“These are by no means the traditional jobs of the past. These are careers in high-tech, high-demand industries that will position our state as a leader in innovation.” 

Skilled trades training at WCC can be accomplished by completing certificates, advanced certificates and associate degree programs, which set up students interested in transferring to a four-year college or university to pursue a bachelor’s degree. 

The college’s welding program is one of the biggest in the state, with 72 welding stations, an enrollment of up to 550 students at any given time and plenty of accolades earned by instructors and students alike. 

Welding principles are taught in a 24-credit certificate program and a 24-credit advanced certificate, which introduces more complex welding, cutting and fabrication techniques.

An associate degree program combines the coursework from the two  certificate programs and adds general education classes.  A 3+1 articulation agreement with Eastern Michigan University allows students to earn a bachelor's degree in Technology Management while completing three years worth of credits at WCC's low tuition rate and just one year at EMU.

Other WCC programs or concentrations that heavily incorporate skilled trades:

Advanced Manufacturing: An 18-credit Operation Technician certificate program prepares students to set up and operate CNC machine tools, traditional mills, lathes and saws. A 19-credit Programming and Setup Technician program teaches students 
to write, read and edit programs. An associate degree program combines the course-work from the two certifi cate programs and adds general education courses. 

Auto Body Repair: This 30-credit certificate program appeals to a wide array of auto-mobile enthusiasts – from hobbyists with an interest in custom cars to those wishing to 
start a career in collision repair. A custom auto body advanced certificate focuses on advanced body and paint techniques used to customize automobiles. 

Automotive Services: Start with a 30-credit certificate program that prepares students for employment as a certified automotive technician, follow with a 13-credit advanced certificate that builds on electrical and mechanical skills. 

Automotive Test Technician: Learn about data acquisition processes used in automotive testing in this associate degree program. Students gain skills needed to fabricate and instrument-test systems used for transportation development. 

Construction Management: This associate degree program prepares students for entry-level jobs in the construction industry, as well as for transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in construction management.  

Engineering & Design Technology: Students learn to create and design products using relevant engineering software and production methods in a 16-credit certificate program.

HVACR: A 25-credit certificate program prepares students for entry-level jobs in residen-tial heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration; a 17-credit advanced certificate prepares students to work in the commercial trade. An associate degree combines the coursework from the two certifcate programs and adds general education classes. A 3+1 articulation agreement with Eastern Michigan University allows students to earn a bachelor's degree in Technology Management while completing three years worth of credits at WCC's low tuition rate and just one year at EMU.

Industrial Electronics Technology: This 16-credit certificate program prepares students for entry-level employment in the electronics cluster of occupations. A 16-credit advanced certificate enhances skills in the area of industrial electronic controls.  

Mechatronics (Robotics & Automated Systems): The Mechantronics associate degree program prepares students for entry-level positions as automated equipment technicians who assemble, install, program, troubleshoot and maintain robotic and automated equipment. An 18-credit Robotics Technician certificate programs is embeded within the associate degree. 

Motorcycle Service Technician: Earn fundamental certification as a motorcycle technician in an 18-credit certificate program. Additional emphasis is placed on engine performance, dynamometer operations and more in a 14-credit advanced certificate.

Powertrain Development Technician: This associate degree program develops the knowledge and skills to perform powertrain testing on complex analytical equipment and software. 

Transportation Technologies: Students follow one of three specialty tracks (Auto Body, Auto Service or Motorcycle Service) in this associate degree program.  


This story appears in the Fall 2022 edition of Launch magazine. See complete issue.

Tags: Advanced Manufacturing, Auto Body Repair, Automotive Powertrain Development, Automotive Services, Construction, Engineering, HVAC, Launch, Launch Fall 2022, Motorcycle Service, Skilled Trades, Transportation Technologies, Welding and Fabrication

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