Many private technical institutes offer substantial skills training at various locations around the state, often resulting in certification. These schools or training centers differ in the array of programs they offer and, to some extent, in their training and educational methodology. Not unlike apprenticeships, career-oriented training generally requires hands-on or on-the-job experience in addition to significant classroom work.
Since the Proprietary Schools Act of 1943, private postsecondary schools that offer training in a specific occupation or trade must obtain a state license. As of this printing, there are 42 such proprietary schools in Michigan that are licensed and accredited by an national organization formally recognized by the state and another 325 licensed proprietary schools that are not accredited.[*] Since the state requires a separate license for each operating location, many of these schools hold more than one license.
It is not immediately clear how many of these programs are targeted at both high-skill and high-demand fields upon which this report focuses. For this reason, the 367 proprietary school licenses provide an upper bound on the total number of distinct proprietary schools in Michigan that are active in relevant skill-based training. Ignoring institutional size and scope, these programs outnumber Michigan community colleges ten-fold. Still, there is only one licensed proprietary school for about every 17,000 Michiganders between 18 and 65 years of age.
Additionally, there is no publicly available and objective evidence of effectiveness other than the market sustainability of these programs and longevity. To varying degrees, state and federal funding of training and workforce development efforts described above confound the evidence. Since many of these programs rely on public financing in one form or another, they may be designed specifically to qualify for this funding rather than to actually meet the market-based demand for skilled workers. Consequently, for the purposes of this research, the array of offerings will be characterized, but not the actual outcomes of these programs, though the latter would be helpful.
Not unlike community colleges, some private training academies offer a variety of programs across different industries. For example, Career Essentials Learning Center in the Detroit area offers 10 different programs, in addition to basic education (targeted at adults with less than a high school education level) and GED preparation. These include certified nursing assistant, phlebotomy, computer technologies, customer service and hospitality, and construction trades. According to the Better Business Bureau, CELC has been in business since 2004, and its parent company dates its founding to 1990. Despite its apparent longevity, the information that is readily available online is spotty, suggesting that information for registration and enrollment is best obtained in person.
This observation is not unique to CELC, as many of the institutions described below have little or outdated information about enrollment, program content and outcomes available online. DRM International Learning Center, with locations in Flint and Lansing, offers training programs across health and construction fields, including certified nursing assistant and phlebotomy certification, and prelicensure training for residential builders. Initially founded as a mentoring program for at-risk youth, DRM was licensed in 2006 to begin offering training in health care fields.
Dorsey Schools operates programs in several locations, with one in Saginaw and eight more in the Detroit area including a main campus in Madison Heights. Some of their programs are in the high-demand areas of medical and skilled trades while others are in the more traditional vocational training areas of beauty and culinary skills. Ross Medical Education Center has 17 Michigan locations. In operation since 1969, programs offered are mostly in medical fields, but some locations also train for veterinary assistant, insurance and billing, or general business management.
Some training centers in Michigan specialize more, including many in private health care programs. For example, Detroit’s Health Care Solutions and Career Group provides training for many health occupations that require, in some cases, just a couple weeks of training and less than $1,000 in tuition. Specific programs include certified nursing assistant (2 weeks, $575), Patient Care Tech Combo (8 weeks, $1,575), Phlebotomy Technician (4 weeks, $600), EKG Technician (2 weeks, $400), Dialysis Technician (15 weeks, $2,500), Direct Care Worker (3 weeks, $500), and Home Health Aide (1 week, $300). According to their website, students who complete these short programs are then eligible for related certification exams. After completing the certified nursing assistant program, for example, students are able to sit for the exams required by the state of Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for Nursing Aids. A review of other Detroit-area programs — Hazy Institute, Serenity Health Training Institute, and Abcott Institute — with weeks-long programs in similar areas shows similar price points.
Some centers, like Muskegon-area Stepping Stones Educational System, Inc., are even more specialized. Stepping Stones offers only a three-week certified nursing assistant program for tuition of approximately $1,000. Because many health occupation training programs must be state licensed, a complete listing of currently licensed programs may be accessed online.
Many training centers emphasize technology skill development — some train in general computer system maintenance and administration, others train students for IT-related work in traditional construction and manufacturing trades. New Horizons, with four Michigan locations, does both — facilitating programs in IT security, network systems administration, and information technology, but also emphasizing technical skill training in more traditional business careers. Programs may be as short as four weeks (for the first level of IT specialist) or as long as 30 weeks (for network systems administration). Michigan Institute of Aviation and Technology emphasizes technical trades through their for-profit trade school in Canton, Mich. It offers training in aviation maintenance, energy technology, wind energy, electro-mechanical technology, and heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration.
Finally, other training centers narrow in on one technical trade, such as the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville. Both the Merrill Institute, part of Merrill Fabricators business in Alma, and the Industrial Arts Institute, a nonprofit in Onaway, focus exclusively on training welders and machinists — trades frequently cited in skills gap discussions.
[*] A relative handful of proprietary schools are licensed by the state but have no presence in Michigan. “LARA - Bureau of Commercial Licensing License Types & Counts as of 5/1/2019” (Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, May 1, 2019), https://perma.cc/NY6L-C9QS.