When it comes to advancing Michigan’s economic growth, there’s no more important asset than a solid, dynamic workforce.
Job providers often decide to locate or expand in areas where large numbers of skilled, educated workers are present. States and regions that do a better job of building stronger talent pipelines will therefore win the competition for jobs and earnings.
But right now, Michigan’s talent pipeline ranks well below that of many of its competitors.
Our K-12 outcomes are relatively poor, with fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math proficiency scores that remain near the bottom when compared to the rest of the nation. Many Michigan high school students graduate without being career- and college-ready, and statewide educational attainment ranks in the bottom half of all states.
These outcomes point to diminished economic opportunities for Michigan families and businesses. To do better, we must develop specific plans for investing in the knowledge and skills of all state residents. What’s more, we need to do a better job of attracting more high-caliber workers to our state, so we can meet global competition with a workforce that is second to none.
Fortunately, Business Leaders for Michigan developed Michigan’s Road to Top Ten plan, which identifies specific strategies in these areas — strategies for ensuring every Michigan resident has the education and skills they need to be successful. It’s our plan for becoming a top 10 U.S. state when it comes to jobs, incomes and economic growth.
To help strengthen Michigan’s talent pipeline, our state’s private, public and nonprofit leaders must work collaboratively to deliver the following key changes:
- Develop strategies to ensure every child is ready to learn and advance.
- Become a top 10 state for dollars going to the classroom by determining the true cost to educate all students equitably and the effectiveness of Michigan’s current spending model.
- Improve the connections between education, training and careers.
- Increase the number of workers with education and training beyond high school.
- Grow Michigan’s population and increase labor force participation.
These are tall orders. They involve a deep change in our educational systems and in the laws that govern them. It means dispensing with policies that pose barriers to employment, including discrimination based on sexual preference and gender identity. It takes greater clarity and consistency than we’ve been able to maintain, historically, as a state.
Even though this level of deep work feels challenging, it’s been done successfully in other states and regions. States like Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida and Washington have united around coherent strategies for boosting K-12 student achievement, and the results are clear. These states are all ranked in the top five for education in U.S. News & World Report.
Michigan has the same opportunities for growth and achievement if we can move past politics and get to a place where all of us are united behind a solid, proven plan for change. It’s time to support Michigan’s Road to Top Ten plan, available at businessleadersformichigan.com, and build up Michigan’s talent pipeline.
The stakes are high; if we fail to boost the supply of available talent, job providers will continue to go elsewhere. We must move forward boldly — and immediately — to make Michigan’s workforce a national powerhouse once more.