Moving Forward: An Impact Report for 2021

Talent 2025 has always been a forward-looking organization, determined to catalyze a talent system that meets the needs of the region’s employers and supports the success of its residents.

Despite another unpredictable year, our progress in 2021 has positioned us to provide even stronger leadership to address the complex talent challenges we will face in 2022 and beyond.

Our vision is for West Michigan to be a top region for talent in the nation. The problems are complex, and solutions are not simple. Yet by several measures, we’re making progress. Here’s one example: In 2011 West Michigan ranked fourth in the state for forecasted job growth over the next 10 years. By 2021, the region ranked first.

We are going to build on our accomplishments to continue advancing West Michigan’s ability to attract, retain, and develop talent. This is how we help our employers, neighbors and communities thrive in a dynamic new era that demands new strategies with greater impact, stronger collaboration and clearer alignment.

Accomplishments in 2021

We served as respected advocates and conveners to address issues relevant to our member CEOs and HR Leaders. These efforts elevated Talent 2025’s visibility, credibility and impact in West Michigan and statewide.

  • Increased the number of children ages 0-5 served by high-quality childcare, early development, and quality preschool programs.
  • Launched three innovation projects with K-12 schools and expanded career education opportunities for students.
  • Provided new research and strategies for employers in response to the structural changes to the labor market and future availability for talent; published a quarterly series of reports on current and forecasted talent demand.
  • Expanded the resources offered to employers seeking to improve their efforts to attract, retain, and develop diverse talent.

Our working groups led or played a key role implementing:

Early Childhood Development

  • Scaling the evidence-based early literacy program Reach Out and Read from Ottawa County to Kent County.
  • Led the launch of PK4All, an early childhood development pilot program developed with Muskegon Public Schools, Muskegon Heights Public Schools and Goodwill of West Michigan.
  • Increased the reimbursement rate and eligibility threshold for more working families to receive subsidized childcare.
  • Increased per pupil funding for the Great Start Readiness Program, Michigan’s pre-school program for at-risk kids.

K-12 Education

  • Started three partnerships with local schools to implement evidence-based strategies in learning, competency-based education, and career exploration.
  • Led a four-part virtual career readiness conference for West Michigan K-12 leaders and employers to share best practices and align efforts.
  • Expanded the number of students, schools, and employers using Mavin, an online platform that builds employability skills and provides career exploration.
  • Sent a letter to each K-12 superintendent in the region encouraging them to focus federal stimulus on strategies that make a lasting impact on student success.

Higher Education

  • Created a task force of Chief Academic Officers and Provosts from FSU, GRCC, Aquinas and Montcalm Community College to develop and pilot a regional transfer agreement.
  • Piloted Discover Education@Work presentations with five (5) employers to help them communicate the value of postsecondary credentials to their employees and their children.

Employer Talent Strategies

  • Hosted a series of events for HR leaders focused on their critical talent issues.
  • Developed a Best Practice Guidebook for hiring and retaining returning citizens, to be published in 2022, and partnered with local chapters of the Association for Human Resource Management to promote second chance hiring to more than 1,000 employers.

Workforce Development

  • Distributed a memo to policymakers on the case to reform unemployment insurance and benefits. Following the release of the memo: (1) LEO implemented recommendations to include the pursuit of a diploma/GED in Michigan’s work search requirement, (2) the House and Senate passed legislation to terminate enhanced unemployment benefits, and (3) Gov. Whitmer announced a $300 return-to-work bonus.
  • Advocated investing $50M in federal funds to improve the state’s ability to measure the impact of education and workforce training programs on employment and wages.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • Published Five Essential Competencies of Effective DE&I Leaders Guidebook.
  • Hosted six roundtables on the topics in the guidebook and minority business procurement, with average participation of 80 individuals.
  • Increased the number of business leaders who have signed our commitment to increase diversity and inclusion in their organizations, bringing the total to 87.
  • Administered our fourth annual D&I benchmarking survey for employers to measure their use of best practices to attract, retain, and develop diverse talent.

Labor Market Insights & Research

  • Documented structural changes to the labor force in a video shared with our CEO members and HR leaders, with five strategies employers should adopt for the new talent landscape.
  • Published interactive Future of Work report detailing impact of automation/AI on value of soft skills, with sector-specific recommendations to accelerate skills-based hiring and learning.
  • Published quarterly Talent Assessment and Outlook reports detailing emerging and evolving labor market trends.


Looking Ahead to 2022

We’re excited to build on the impact last year by doing more to improve access to childcare, expanding partnerships with K-12 education leaders that encourage innovation and better outcomes for students, incentivizing more people to re-enter the workforce, raising the education and skills of those in the workforce, and promoting evidence-based strategies employers can use to attract and retain talent.


As always, we’re grateful for your investment in our work and the impact we’re making together to improve the quality of life for every resident of West Michigan.



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