- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WATERTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday promoted apprenticeships in the skilled trades, saying Michigan must re-establish career technical education as a viable alternative to a four-year college degree in its bid to fill in-demand jobs.

The Republican governor spent the morning after his fifth State of the State speech at a Lansing-area molding and machining manufacturer. Franchino Mold and Engineering has used $50,000 in state funding in the last two years so that apprentices can be trained at Lansing Community College while working full-time at the company.

Workers who complete the four-year program can make around $20 an hour and have no school debt.

“In some ways, we lost track of career tech education and the skilled trades. Big mistake. And we’re paying a price for that today,” Snyder said. “There are a tremendous number of great jobs out there waiting to be filled.”

The governor said he wants to ramp up newer programs such as Michigan Advanced Technician Training - MAT2 - in which employers pay tuition costs for a worker’s associate’s degree and provide on-the-job training with pay. And next month, the state will award up to $50 million to community colleges to help update tools they use to train students for machining, welding and other skills.

Snyder’s push comes as he faces a $289 million shortfall in the current budget, largely because of higher-than-expected business tax credits being claimed. But he said he opposes across-the-board cuts and increased spending on skilled trades education will be a priority when he presents his proposed 2015-16 budget to the Legislature in February.

Repeating comments from both the State of the State and his recent inaugural speech, Snyder said he wants to lead the nation in expanding technical education in trades such as welding.

Brent Knight, president of Lansing Community College, said its apprenticeship programs have gone up 29 percent overall since 2012 - 48 percent in manufacturing fields.

General Motors, which has two assembly plants in the Lansing area, employs “thousands of people” but “there are lots of small companies that need these same skills,” Knight said.

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Email David Eggert at deggert@ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

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