Employers go all-in on student success as investment in our future

In our efforts to make to make Michigan a leader for talent, we know exactly where to find the group with the greatest potential to accomplish that goal.

They can be found in classrooms across the state, where they are learning the foundational skills of reading and math that are critical to their lifelong success. Exploring career interests. Engaging in work-based learning and hands-on career technical education. Studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts. Preparing for success at the postsecondary level. Finding their way in the world.

These students, under the guidance of hardworking teachers and education professionals, represent the best hope for a Michigan where everyone can thrive. And nobody has been a stronger advocate for helping them to fulfill their potential than West Michigan employers working with TalentFirst.

Allies and Advocates

This is a generational commitment. Employers recognize that investing in student success is critical for our state and will pay dividends for decades to come.

That’s why the employers of TalentFirst expend their time, energy, expertise and influence on this cause. They want to ensure students from preschool through 12th grade – and beyond, into postsecondary learning and adulthood – have the best possible education and training to enable their success.

For more than a decade, TalentFirst has supported state investments in childcare, preschool, and public education, particularly to help at-risk students overcome obstacles and achieve alongside their peers. Members of our CEO Council have worked with educators and thought leaders to drive and expand evidence-based improvements.

Last year alone, TalentFirst:

  • Encouraged a total investment of $168.5 million to expand Great Start Readiness Program preschool access to all at-risk 4-year-olds.
  • Launched Muskegon’s PreK4All, a public/private partnership with Muskegon Public Schools and community leaders to provide preschool and childcare to at-risk kids.

This year we continued our role in the Career Readiness Conference, convening 112 leaders in education and manufacturing, which resulted in the formation of action teams to:

  • Increase work-based learning/internships
  • Expand project-based learning curriculum with employer challenges in grades 4-8
  • Do more to market career opportunities to students and parents

Leading Innovation

TalentFirst has been integral in the pioneering use of Mavin, a comprehensive education and career exploration and development platform that integrates whole child support (health and wellness), career and college awareness and preparedness, and high-quality curriculum. As a result, hundreds of elementary and middle school students in our region have completed modules where they are demonstrating 21st century STEM skills, increasing their career awareness and building a robust digital talent profile.

To increase work-based learning opportunities for students, TalentFirst is convening educators from Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon ISDs to develop a centralized system of best practices and internship placement supports. All three ISDs piloted solutions in the past school year to support their local districts in placing more students on internships.

We also are working to support the efforts of the Future of Learning Council, whose 43 member districts across the state are building a network of innovation schools to serve as hubs to redesign learning to increase student success. TalentFirst will work to engage other business organizations to advocate on behalf of the FLC and support its state funding request to help schools transition to competency-based education. This approach, supported by educators nationwide, is increasingly recognized as way to ensure all students succeed through learning that is measured by students demonstrating mastery of a subject, rather than time spent in the classroom.

An Enduring Commitment

The above examples are just a recent sampling of the very real advances that West Michigan CEOs and our partners in education have made possible. Much of this work is the direct result of our Early Childhood Working Group and our K12 Education Working Group.

It would be difficult to find a group more informed about the challenges and opportunities for student success, or more engaged in driving solutions.

The goal of the Early Childhood Working Group is that “80% of children will enter kindergarten ready for school to make it much more likely they are proficient in reading by 3rd grade.” The K12 Working Group’s goal is to “exceed student academic and college and career readiness measures at the schools we partner with when compared to their peers in the region and state.”

These statements help explain why employers of TalentFirst are proud to partner with educators at every level to drive improvement on behalf of our state’s students. This is a natural partnership, because we share the same goal: ensuring all students have every opportunity to thrive and succeed in school and in life.


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