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Michigan Future’s most-read blogs

Month after month, year after year, there are four most-read blogs. All have in common an exploration of the skills and occupations that are most rewarded in today’s labor market. That those skills are not occupation specific, but rather broader career rock climbing skills. And that the careers most rewarded are professional and managerial, not the skilled trades.

The four most-read posts on this blog are:

  1. Google finds STEM skills aren’t the most important skills: Google found that the most valuable skills were being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
  2. What actually predicts college success?: In nearly all the research that’s been done on student success in college, the most predictive indicator, time and again, is a student’s high school GPA. … It captures a student’s mastery of academic content to be sure, but also ends up capturing their ability to pay attention in class, take notes, participate, complete assignments on time, seek feedback, seek help, advocate for themselves, manage their time, and create study systems.
  3. What skilled trades jobs actually pay updated: Only 22 occupations met the criteria in 2016 of employing at least 1,000 (out of four million employed Michiganders then) and an average annual wage of more than the statewide average of $45,100. No carpenters, truck drivers, welders and automotive service technicians. And all the other hundreds of so-called high-paid/high-demand blue collar skilled trades. If the list was for occupations that pay at least the statewide average and employ at least 5,000 the above number of occupations would decline from 22 to 7.
  4. The skilled trades and six-figure salaries: And while there are some skilled trades occupations in which you can earn a good living (based on our analysis of Department of Labor data, electricians and plumbers earn a median over $50,000, and the top 10% of earners can indeed earn over $90,000), the median income for most jobs in the skilled trades hovers between $35,000 and $45,000 (reference the BLS occupational handbook for data on individual jobs). So while these jobs might put you over the national median of roughly $37,000, and would certainly help you earn more than most individuals with no education beyond high school, it’s unclear where this idea of welders earning six-figure incomes came from (BLS has the median welder at $39,390).

As our readers keep telling us, each of these four most-read blogs are still worth reading, or rereading, today. Together they tell an important story about today’s labor market realities. About what in-demand skills are and are not, and about what are, and are not, the best-paying occupations and careers.

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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