Looking ahead to 2020: What’s in store for the workforce?

The end of a year inevitably leads us to start looking into the next one. We set goals, think about what we hope to accomplish and wonder what the next 12 months will hold.

No one has a crystal ball, but we have some predictions for 2020’s workforce.


Postsecondary education will continue to be critical

According to Teri Sand, business services manager for Capital Area Michigan Works!, a “traditional” college education isn’t the only type of learning employers continue to seek. The commitment to life-long learning is also expected at most companies. The drive and ability to continue growing in a chosen field is vital to companies and individuals’ success.

In the last 10 years, there were almost 1,600 additional assemblers and fabricators jobs created in the Lansing area, according to the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). Sand said several companies in the manufacturing sector have significant growth plans for the upcoming year, based on the recent Going PRO Talent Fund applications CAMW! reviewed. This means opportunities in occupations such as engineering, welding, assembly and project management will likely continue to grow in the next year.

According to the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, there will be an overall increase of 4.4% in construction jobs in 2020 from 2018 in our state. While 4.4% may not seem to be much of an increase at first, that equates to over 7,000 additional construction jobs. Manufacturing jobs are predicted to have an increase of around 9,100 positions from the 2018 numbers.


Labor shortages aren’t going anywhere

Skilled jobs, like those in manufacturing and construction, require skilled workers to fill them.

Looking forward with these projections shows that skilled workers are going to be needed more than ever. Employers are struggling to find workers with the proper training for the jobs that are needed.

 “The current labor shortage has finally proven to many hiring managers that they need to ‘grow their own,’” said Sand. “Employers cannot find enough workers who already have all the experience desired. Workers must be willing to learn on the job as well as in classroom settings.”

Skilled trades aren’t the only area we can expect to see growth in during the next year. From 2009-2019, the occupations with the most growth included market research analysts and marketing specialists, software developers and sales representatives, according to LEAP. Customer service representatives was the category with the second highest growth, with over 1,300 additional jobs added. This seems to be a trend that will continue.

“Based on projects we anticipate launching soon, we expect our region to see very significant growth within the customer service representative occupational category in the coming year,” said Keith Lambert, vice president of business attraction for LEAP.

Lambert also stated LEAP expects the St. Johns Dairy Processing Campus project currently underway to have a significant impact on multiple occupational categories, especially within the realm of technicians and operators that will be hired by MWC and Proliant Dairy Ingredients in 2020.

Is there a recession coming?

Many employers, news outlets and concerned citizens are wondering if there’s a recession on the immediate horizon. It’s not an answer I have for you.

What I can tell you is that, while Michigan has diversified its employment base in the past decade, we are still heavily dependent on manufacturing jobs, and if or when a recession hits, we’ll likely see similar historical trends to the Great Recession – it will likely hit Michigan early, and we’ll need to work hard to mitigate its impacts.

Much like in the last recession, I expect if we do enter a recessionary time, we’ll still face many of the same skills gaps. While this is frustrating for employers, it’s good news for job seekers. Training and degree program enrollments go up during a recession, and often so does funding for those programs.

Recessions are hard. I won’t sugar coat that. But if we do see one in the coming year or two, we’ve dramatically changed our infrastructure and ability to help train and retrain individuals to meet the in-demand occupations to help employers – and individuals – survive.

I don’t know for certain what 2020 will hold for our workforce. But I know whatever it is, at CAMW!, we’ll be ready for it.


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