Growing talent gap plagues Michigan businesses

Post-pandemic, the number of help-wanted signs and online job postings have soared; it seems a crisis has arisen overnight. The need for talent in Michigan, however, is not a new occurrence. In fact, our state’s current talent shortage is nearing epic proportions.

Recent studies show the U.S. is facing a ‘talent recession’. Analysts at the financial-services company Goldman Sachs reported in February that at least 3.6 million Americans had quit their jobs each month since April 2021, and said there are 4.6 million more jobs than there are potential workers.

And today, only 30% of Michigan adults age 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Michigan’s talent gap, by the numbers

I recently presented an analysis of the talent situation in the state.

Today, there are 150,000 job openings in Michigan; in Metro Detroit and the Southeast Michigan region – 84,200; in West Michigan – 23,160. Yet, in less than seven years, Michigan will experience a workforce gap of more than 1 million openings.

The state’s job growth forecast predicts continued growth across the state through 2024, including a 12% job growth over the next five years in West Michigan, Detroit, and Lansing.

The generational challenges further exacerbate this problem. In the United States, roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, creating a talent gap between the number of baby boomers that retire and the number of younger workers with the right skills to replace them.

By 2025, millennials will make up roughly 75% of the workforce. However, millennials have an average tenure of 19 months per job. Dissatisfaction with employee development efforts appears to fuel many early exits. They’re not getting much in the way of formal development, such as training, mentoring, and coaching – things they value highly.

Two key strategies to solving the talent gap crisis

I’m here to advocate for employers to explore two paths to address the talent crisis facing Michigan – a short-term strategy of investment in your current employees, and a long-term strategy of building a talent pipeline for your future workforce.

  1. Short-term solution – Invest in your current employees

In the short term, to stop workforce attrition, it is imperative employers invest in their most important resource – their current employees. This includes professional development, training, and scholarships or tuition reimbursement for advanced education.

A recent survey found that 72%, of people who’ve recently left a job, would consider going back to their old employer if they earned higher pay, improved benefits, or better perks.

Have you considered incentivizing your current workforce to skill up? Have you considered encouraging your staff to earn certifications?

Academic certificates can give your staff a leg up in the job market while also establishing building blocks for their future career. Specialized certificates can be earned in a variety of subjects at major universities, community colleges, and even some major corporations, giving individuals quick, immersive, exposure to a subject matter. Davenport recently introduced Stackable Certificates, a way to combine and earn certificates and degrees toward a bachelor’s degree. This method provides your employees with a clear pathway for additional training toward a valuable degree and more career opportunities within your business.

In addition, professional development training, spanning leadership skills to project management, can address key skill gaps in your workforce. At Davenport University, we offer our employees business acumen training through our Leadership Academy, enabling our staff to skill up in key areas around financing, leadership, and business planning. As a result, more than half of our staff members who go through the Leadership Academy get promoted.

In April of this year, student loan debt in the U.S. totaled $1.75 trillion; the average household with student loan debt owes $57,520. Employer-supported educational opportunities help employees further their education without taking on an additional financial burden.

  1. A long-term solution; working with universities to build a talent pipeline

I strongly believe the long-term solution is to develop strategic partnerships with local universities. By working with your local academic community, you can influence the curriculum and skills needed to support your workforce.

In West Michigan, Davenport currently has corporate partnerships in place with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Mercantile Bank, Gordon Foods, and Grand Rapids Public Schools, among others. By building relationships with local businesses and organizations, we’re able to be responsive to specific needs and offer academic programs and leadership training that meet the current demands of the marketplace. We also offer each organization’s employees and immediate family members a variety of benefits including scholarships, which their employers match as an additional benefit.

Universities also serve as a key conduit to future talent. They often have robust internship requirements and programs to enhance the learning of their students and support your growing business needs.

At Davenport, we require all of our students to complete an internship or work-study before they graduate. This is a benefit to both employers and students. Students learn key skills about their future careers while also determining where their talents lie. Nearly 40% of Davenport’s students earn their first job through their college internships.

A call to action

In summary, Michigan has a growing talent gap – from an aging workforce, short tenure of millennials, and the pandemic’s rebound. To prepare businesses and the local economy for the future, employers must invest in their talent – both their current team and the one they will need in the future.

For information on corporate partnership opportunities and the work being done by Davenport University to combat the talent gap, visit




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