Spring 2018 CEO Council Meeting Recap

On Thursday, May 3, Talent 2025’s CEO Council met at Amway’s headquarters in Ada. This meeting focused on Talent 2025’s two current priorities: early literacy and workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion. These two priorities were announced during last October’s meeting, and were chosen because each can have a significant impact on West Michigan’s talent pipeline.


Focusing on two KPIs

In addition, Talent 2025 President Kevin Stotts shared the two KPIs for the West Michigan labor market. The first is the Labor Force Participation (LFP) rate among prime-age adults in the region. West Michigan’s LFP rate currently stands at 82.0%, while top-ranking, comparable regions have LFP rates of 85.5%. This gap translates to 22,000 people in West Michigan who must move into the labor force.


The second KPI is the number of households living above the ALICE threshold. Currently, 60.8% of households in West Michigan are above the ALICE threshold, compared to 65% in top regions. These households are participating in the workforce but are not making high enough wages to establish a savings and struggle to cover their expenses. In Ottawa county, for example, a single person must earn at least $9.92/hour and a household with two adults and two children must earn at least $28.00/hour.


Announcing new resources

Three new resources were announced at the CEO Council Meeting. The first two are PIVOT and LEADR Exchange. PIVOT is an employer toolkit filled with resources on workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion. LEADR Exchange shares leading practices for attracting and retaining talent from local West Michigan employers. Both are housed on the Talent 2025 website and will be updated regularly.


Additionally, the Workforce Development Working Group shared one-pagers with their findings on the four major barriers to employment: child care, transportation, substance use, and education and skills. An in-depth blog on these four barriers will be published soon.


Sharing insights on public education

Doug Ross from American Promise Schools shared information on Michigan’s public schools with the CEO Council and framed the system as if it were a business.


Ross highlighted the fact that while Michigan schools ranked well 15 years ago, today they score low compared to other states. In Michigan, even high-income students (who statistically score higher than their peers) are ranked 48th in the nation. Overall, Michigan’s students’ proficiency in all subjects has declined while others grow.


Today’s careers demand graduates who are critical and creative thinkers, strong communicators, and prepared for higher education. Ross explained that if this is the “product” that the schools as a business is supposed to provide, they are failing to deliver.

However, there are steps that the CEO Council members and West Michigan’s leaders as a whole can take to improve the outcomes of public schools. Ross suggested that these leaders:

  • Catalyze a regional coalition which includes business leaders and teachers,
  • Set metrics by selecting assessments to measure progress,
  • Create a research and development capacity,
  • Establish West Michigan as a “teacher mecca,”
  • Repurpose inefficient funds and win support for funding where gaps are present, and
  • Foster an “obsessive culture” among both parents and business advocacy in Lansing.

Final action items

Given all of the data, statistics, and research presented at the meeting, the CEO Council left with four action items based on the four barriers to entering the workforce as well as the challenges in Michigan’s K-12 education system. They were:

  • Advocate for change and solutions in child care,
  • Utilize and support Wheels to Work,
  • Evaluate substance use and drug testing policies, and
  • Advocate for change in K-12 education.

Materials from the CEO Council Meeting are available under the Resources tab on our website, including the complete slide deck, one-pagers, and data sheet.  

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