As a Region and a State, Talent Is an Urgent Matter

Last fall, a coalition of business, education, military, and governmental leaders – the Michigan Higher Education Attainment Roundtable (MIHEART) – issued a report that called for talent attainment to be Michigan’s No. 1 public policy priority

As a member of MIHEART, Talent 2025 applauds the call for urgency, which continues this week.


MIHEART has invited legislators and their staff members to a Talent Summit, co-hosted by Talent 2025, on January 24 in Lansing, where the group will outline its priorities and strategies, based on the Total Talent report issued in September.


Many of the objectives align with efforts we have been undertaking in West Michigan since the founding of Talent 2025, and it is encouraging to see statewide attention to the importance of talent. As we’ve seen in West Michigan, the only way to make progress is through collaboration.


Total Talent priorities

At the summit, MIHEART members will outline state policy priorities for making Michigan a talent leader by focusing on education and career exploration. These include: 

·Reduce the financial barrier to post-secondary education and training for low-income students and adults.

·Ensure every student is provided with numerous career exploration opportunities.

·Help employers to partner with local educators to improve career exploration and career advising.

·Provide every student who graduates from high school with a plan for post-secondary education, one that is aligned to their interests and abilities.

·Improve credential completion, including encouraging transfer pathways and credit acceptance between institutions.


Lessons from West Michigan

While these are statewide strategies and our approach here is regional, and we know that many education and career pathway initiatives have been tested and proven to work in West Michigan.


For example, in our efforts to expand student access to career exploration, programs across the region have started to implement career readiness programs starting as early as middle school. One example is FuturePrep’d, in Ottawa County, which offers a link between classroom teaching and workplace relevance, beginning with content, curriculum and experiences in the sixth grade.


Similarly, programs such as MiCareerQuest, a large-scale event that showcases career pathways for middle and high school students, provides a wealth of exposure to careers in West Michigan.


And the West Michigan Career Readiness Conference, a network of educators, is collaborating toward its goal of making sure every student is college- or career-ready upon graduation.


We still have room for improvement

It is worth noting that MIHEART has set a goal that 60% of Michigan adults will attain postsecondary education credentials by 2025. Talent 2025 has the same target year, but is striving for a higher percentage, aiming for 64% of adults over the age of 25 in the region to have at least some college (including non-degree certificate programs) by 2025.


This goal was established based on a study by the W.E. Upjohn Institute, which forecasts 64 percent of West Michigan jobs in 2025 would require some education beyond a high school diploma. Failure to meet that standard would result in the steady decline in the region’s economy and quality of life.


We are making progress toward that goal. However, currently only 81.4% of West Michigan 9th grade students graduate from high school. Many of those who do graduate are not ready for college or career. Of the students who do graduate, just 57% enroll in postsecondary education within six months. This leaves room for growth – even though it represents an increase of 19.6 percentage points from 10 years ago.


At the current pace and sustained effort, we can reach our targets – but this will require the sense of urgency, the willingness to collaborate and innovative spirit for which West Michigan is known. Just as MIHEART has called for talent attainment to be the state’s top policy priority, we need the same focus on our efforts in West Michigan.


What do you think about the priorities to advance talent in West Michigan and statewide? Do you know of other resources returning citizens could utilize? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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