New Legislation Aims to Advance Skilled Trades Education in Michigan


Since late 2017, four important bills have been enacted in Michigan that are designed to improve access to and delivery of information about skilled trade career choices, reduce the certification requirements for qualified high school instructors, and allow certified teachers count time spent connecting with employers and others toward professional recertification. Each provides another step forward in the drive to create a new skilled trades workforce, helping to clear the way for change.

Better Career Counseling for Students

Beginning on Nov. 8, 2017, House Bill 4181 was passed as Public Act No. 151. The legislation requires that, within two years of its enactment, high school guidance counselors must have “completed at least 25 hours of professional development approved by the department … covering counseling about the college preparation and selection process and at least 25 hours of professional development approved by the department … covering career counseling. For the purposes of this subsection, career counseling includes, but is not limited to, exploration of military career options and the skilled trades as well as other careers and pathways that lead to industry credentials awarded in recognition of an individual’s attainment of measurable technical or occupational skills necessary to obtain employment or advance within an occupation.”

The hours required are “part of and not in addition to” current requirements for a high school counselor’s mandatory credential renewal by the Michigan Department of Education. The Act became effective Feb. 6, 2018.

The new requirements are in addition to the State’s crackdown on uncredentialed school counselors. State law currently requires school counselors to hold a valid Michigan teaching certificate as well as a school counseling endorsement. 

A Model Program for Schools

In addition to training for counselors, House Bill 5139 (also called the Superintendent Brian Whiston Career Pathways Law), enacted as Public Act No. 229, requires a newly created or adopted program to be used in all schools beginning with kindergarten to bring career awareness into the classroom. Specifically, the Act requires:

“(1) Not later than January 1, 2019, the department, in consultation with the department of talent and economic development, shall develop or adopt, and make available to schools, a model program of instruction in career development that meets at least all of the following:

(a) Defines learning targets and themes for each grade level.

(b) Includes instruction for pupils in grades K to 12.

(c) Incorporates career development education embedded within core instruction.

(d) Includes strategies for engaging parents and community business and industry interests.

(2) Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the board of a school district or board of directors of a public school academy shall ensure that the school district’s or public school academy’s curriculum incorporates grade-appropriate instruction on career development in each grade level in grades K to 12.”

More Teachers With Experience

One of the major hurdles in providing adequate skilled trades education is the shortage of teachers. In Michigan, teachers must have a at least a four-year degree and be certified, which generally precludes people in skilled and experienced trades. To address this problem, House Bill 5141 enacted as Public Act No. 235 allows local school boards to hire licensed professionals to fill open jobs in career and technical education programs as follows in part under Sec. 1233b:

“(2)(b) For teaching a course in an industrial technology education program or a career and technical education program, is engaged to teach in a subject matter or field in which the teacher has achieved expertise, as determined by the board of a school district or intermediate school district or board of directors of a public school academy, and satisfies all of the following:

(i) Has a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certificate as defined in section 4 of the state school aid act of 1979, MCL 388.1604.

(ii) For teaching in a subject matter or field in which a professional license or certification is required, at least 1 of the following:

(A) Holds a professional license or certification in that same subject matter or field.

(B) Previously held a professional license or certification in that same subject matter or field that expired no more than 2 years before the noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher’s initial employment under this section and was in good standing immediately before the license or certification expired.

(iii) Has at least 2 cumulative years of professional experience in that same subject matter or field in the immediately preceding 10 years.”

Teachers hired under subsection (2)(b) may be hired for up to 10 years, however, “The superintendent of public instruction may permit the board or board of directors to employ the teacher for more than 10 years.”

Better Networking Opportunities

Another helpful puzzle piece is that of building a cooperative infrastructure among educators, businesses, public agencies, unions, and other stakeholders. Decades have gone by since skilled trades training was considered a viable option for young people before entering the workforce, so a new network must be built. Toward that end, House Bill 5145, enacted as Public Act No. 234, requires the promulgation of “rules to allow an individual to use time spent engaging with local employers or technical centers toward the renewal of an advanced professional education certificate in the same manner as state continuing education or professional development.”

This will free up teachers to spend more time networking, which will ultimately help connect schools and students with advanced training, employers and jobs. These rules must be provided “no later than January 1, 2019.”

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