"Out of the hundreds of thousands of jobs I've applied for, obviously most of them come back with rejection letters," said Chad Robillard, an unemployed welder.
Chad Robillard is running out of ink and hope. Even with a welding certificate, the 34-year-old from Ishpeming has been unemployed for the last two-and-a-half years. Still, the latest numbers show Marquette County is at 8.2 percent unemployment, one of the best in the region.
"Marquette County doesn't see the dips and highs as much as the other counties do," said Holly Peoples, Director of Business Services at Michigan Works.
But like Chad, many run out of benefits and fall off the numbers map. More than 800 people visit Michigan Works weekly, looking for potential work, a promotion or a brush-up on skills.
Some say Chad may be in the wrong county. Each region of the U.P. has its own specialty. Marquette County is driven by Northern Michigan University, Marquette General Hospital, and the Marquette Branch Prison. Manufacturing dominates the southern U.P.
"The biggest base of welding and machining operations in our six-county region, and probably if you consider the whole U.P., Dickinson County and Menominee County," Peoples said.
Recent advancements in the manufacturing field could spark hope for seekers like Chad. With big projects come big investments. Some experts say the development of the Kennecott Eagle Mine and Marinette Marine will invest millions of dollars in the community and create hundreds of jobs.
Still, the demand for welding talent is shifting. More and more, employers are looking for higher education and complex skills.
"Some employers require people who can weld long, straight welds; some require people who can get into small areas and work in very detailed welding," Peoples said.
Skills Chad says he's got, but needs the opportunity to prove it.
"How's a person supposed to get the experience if they don't give a person a chance?" Robillard said.
Since we shot the story, Chad has found work locally, but, like many, he's not employed in his field.