Detroit Regional Chamber > Education & Talent > Talent Today & Tomorrow

Talent Today & Tomorrow

May 31, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Michigan currently ranks 37th in attainment, with 51% of Michiganders holding a degree or credential, with 1.2 million citizens with some college credit but no degree.
  • A holistic approach including placemaking and talent can create a collaborative framework for upward mobility for Michiganders.
  • Partnership with a focus on innovation within higher education and business is necessary to ensure degree completion.

Jeff Donofrio, President and Chief Executive Officer of Business Leaders for Michigan began the session, Talent Today & Tomorrow, at the 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference with a data presentation and recommendations for building a world-class education system that includes partnerships between business and education to move Michigan into a top-10 state.  

Michigan ranks 37th in attainment with 51% of Michigan citizens holding a degree or credential. Additionally, Michigan ranks 49th in enrollment growth, 48th in six-year degree completion rates, and has 1.2 million citizens with some college, no degree.  

However, Donofrio reiterated that the focus must shift from the middle to the top, with wide range of strategies to overcome things that have been historically difficult for Michigan.  

He shared that for Michigan to become a top state, the framework must be a holistic economic development approach, which Business Leaders for Michigan outlined in its report, “Compete to Win: Michigan’s Path to Top 10.” The approach includes focusing on talent, placemaking, entrepreneurship and innovation, customer service, and competitive incentives.  

“We can’t do just one silver bullet thing – it has to be a 10-to-15-year approach to improve our metrics,” Donofrio stated. 

After the presentation, Michigan Radio’s Zoe Clark moderated a panel with the State of Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor, Garlin Gilchrist II, Philomena V. Mantella, President, Grand Valley State University, Santa J. Ono, President, University of Michigan, and Steve Robinson, President, Lansing Community College answering questions about a community partnership, institutional partnerships, and innovation.  

When asked by Clark for examples of educational transformation in their specific spheres, each spoke to initiatives on campus and within their community that are unique to the Region’s needs.  

Leaning into the holistic framework mentioned earlier by Donofrio, Mantella shared that at Grand Valley State University, the college has focused on innovation by creating space for competency-based education and a non-academic transcript where employers can see students’ experience and not just an academic transcript.  

Mantella stated the model allows for business to “co-create the curriculum, which avoids the polarity of the either-or education model.”  

Addressing measuring success within education and building the workforce, Clark asked how success can be measured within workforce and education partnerships.  

Robinson shared his experience with educational attainments goals in other states and how Michigan differs. 

“All of our competitor states have set attainment goals, but here in Michigan we back them up with strategies designed to meet our goal,” he stated.  

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist touted the increase in Michigan’s attainment goal.  

“When we announced the attainment goal, we were at 44% in Michigan. We have broken 51% in two years,” Gilchrist stated. “I have all of the confidence in the people of Michigan that if we bet on one another, we can exceed all of our expectations.”  

Ono shared his optimism for the state in relation to education and business partnerships.  

“The stars are aligned in Michigan. The energy this state has is really remarkable and it’s infectious. It’s really about ‘and’,” he said. “Ten years from now the headline will be businesses and education in Michigan used a data-driven approach to determine the movement for economic development.”  

This Mackinac Policy Conference session was sponsored by Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.