Michigan’s Path to the Top 10: Invest in people

July 19, 2022
| Share On

Businesses go where the talent is based. Michigan is in a race with other states for talented people to fill jobs. The availability of highly skilled and educated workers will make the difference between states that excel and those that fall behind in the decades ahead.

The state has made progress in recent years, including adoption of a goal to get 60% of working-age Michiganders to have a credential or a college degree by 2030. Talent development programs, such as Michigan Reconnect and local Promise programs, are achieving positive results.

But with the state lagging in labor force participation, degree/certificate attainment and net talent migration, now is the time to develop additional opportunities for adult learners to get degrees or certificates to better position them for the jobs of the future.

Michigan is expected to lose over 100,000 working age individuals in the next 10 years. And several Southern states have leapfrogged Michigan in terms of educational attainment. Michigan has been passed by Georgia and Kentucky in the past 10 years, and Tennessee is catching up.

Michigan currently ranks nationally:

  • 19th in net talent migration
  • 35th in degree/certificate attainment
  • 41st in labor force participation

Louisville, Kentucky’s ambitious goal to increase the number of degrees

In the early 2000s, structural shifts in Louisville, Kentucky’s regional economy from manufacturing to services elevated the need for education and a skilled workforce to remain competitive. To help transform the education system to meet the needs of the local economy, Louisville’s “55K Degrees” initiative was formed to target higher education attainment, with the goal of increasing the number of residents holding degrees by 55,000 between 2010-2020.

Ultimately, Louisville’s leaders increased post-high school educational attainment by 8 points even in a challenging climate.

Here’s how they made progress:

  • Coalesced community around a common goal: Convened public sector, business, education and philanthropy to increase degree attainment in the region.
  • Created two years of tuition-free postsecondary education programs: Every Jefferson County Public Schools graduate, regardless of income status, could afford to get the skills and education needed to earn a living wage.
  • Brokered partnership between workforce development agencies and businesses to upskill or reskill youth and adults and attain degrees tied to careers.
  • Recognized issues of racial equity and created a specific program dedicated to Black degree attainment: Examined the root causes for gaping inequities and structural barriers to racial equity in education.

Through this work, Louisville learned that adult learners aren’t low-hanging fruit. They often require individualized support managing childcare and employment. Proposed initiatives must also address underlying inequities (i.e. poverty, eviction, etc.), and cradle-to-career services are necessary. Talent goals won’t be achieved with an underperforming K-12 system, and additional wrap-around services (integration of education, workforce, social service and health interventions) are needed.

See how Michigan can get to the Top 10 in Business Leaders for Michigan’s latest report.

About Business Leaders for Michigan

Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable, was founded in 2009 around a common mission to make Michigan a Top 10 state. The organization provides a platform for the state’s top business and education leaders to collaborate on developing and helping to implement impactful plans to make Michigan more competitive. In the past dozen years, the state has made significant progress, moving up to 29th from 49th nationally. Business Leaders for Michigan’s new strategic report uses updated benchmarks, which provide a more holistic view of how well all Michiganders are succeeding. Its state-by-state analysis helps business leaders and policymakers focus on where Michigan struggles to surpass other states, and develop specific, data-driven solutions that will help Michigan’s people, businesses and communities compete and win jobs, additional income and economic growth. Learn more at businessleadersformichigan.com.