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Economic Experts: ‘No Time to Waste’ on Improving Region’s Educated Workforce

To accelerate the Detroit region’s growing economy, attract global firms, and bolster job creation in an age of rapid technological innovation, creative and collaborative solutions to improve Michigan’s education system must be a top priority. That was a key message a panel of economic and business experts reinforced repeatedly during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s fourth annual State of the Region on Wednesday, Nov. 1.

“We’ve laid the groundwork (for regional growth) and we can’t be complacent about this issue. The time is now. We have to make sure we remain competitive in all sectors,” said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, interim associate director of social science and policy at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, in response to a question on the State of the Region’s findings on education attainment.

While the 2017-2018 report was largely positive in areas like median home value growth and a lower unemployment rate matching the national average for the first time in more than a decade, the report also revealed that Detroit ranks just below the national average in the percentage of the adult population with an associate degree or higher.

Hughes-Cromwick was joined on the panel by Joseph Anderson Jr., chairman and CEO of TAG Holdings LLC; Daniel Howes, columnist and associate business editor for The Detroit News; and Paul Traub, senior business economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit Branch. The panel was moderated by Devin Scillian, anchor for WDIV-TV 4.

Additional takeaways from the panel include:

  • In the bid for Amazon’s HQ2, Detroit can play to its strengths, including a vibrant educational base, access to the automotive industry, and proximity to Canada.
  • Regional collaboration is critical to attracting global firms to the region.
  • Regional leaders must leverage all resources to prevent place-based development and ensure equitable, inclusive growth.
  • Closing the talent gap in Southeast Michigan requires more investment at the state level in apprenticeship programs.
  • The modern realities of technology-fueled innovation and a growing talent gap present a significant challenge for companies in Southeast Michigan.
  • The timeline for mass adoption of automated vehicles on roadways is much longer than many believe and is driven by consumer demand and the testing, regulation and adoption of innovative technology, which can be a lengthy process.
  • Just like crisis was a precursor of change for the automotive industry and the city of Detroit, it will take a crisis to fix Michigan’s education system.