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Detroit Regional Talent Compact Unveils Roadmap to Addressing Alarming Education Data and COVID-19 Disruption

New partnership includes action plans from state of Michigan and regional business, education, and philanthropic organizations

DETROIT, Sept. 30, 2020 – Today, partners in government, business, education, and philanthropy unveiled the Detroit Regional Talent Compact, a collective 10-year roadmap for rebuilding the workforce talent pipeline in Southeast Michigan. Thirty-five statewide and regional partners agree to work together, with specific action plans, in response to the data uncovered in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s State of Education report last winter – a situation that has become more acute with ongoing concerns of education loss due to COVID-19.

“The State of Education we released last December was alarming, and COVID-19 will only make things worse if we don’t take action to increase the highly-skilled talent in our region,” said Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “These times call for a new strategy and unprecedented collaboration. The Detroit Regional Talent Compact is a blueprint to create a more robust and inclusive talent pipeline to drive economic growth as we navigate the impact of the pandemic in the decade that follows.”

The State of Education report highlighted that:

  • 47% of Detroit regional students who pursue postsecondary education, have not earned a degree or certificate within six years of graduating from high school.
  • Further, the region has some of the largest gaps between white and Black college graduation rates in the country, with 60% of white students graduating and only 26% of Black students (based on six-year graduation rates).
  • Only 17% of individuals without a college degree earned a family-sustaining wage in the region, and 69% of city of Detroit residents ages 18-64 without a high school diploma are either not in the labor force or unemployed.

The Chamber and its collective impact initiative to improve the talent pipeline, Detroit Drives Degrees, have committed to a goal of increasing postsecondary credential attainment to 60% and reducing the racial equity gap in half by 2030 as the overarching goal of the Compact. Per capita income increases by $1,250 when bachelor’s degree attainment increases by one percentage point, so the Detroit region would have an estimated ROI of $42 billion and result in more than 265,000 new degrees and credentials if the goal is met by 2030.

“The Detroit Regional Talent Compact represents the very cross-sectoral coordination and commitments that Southeast Michigan needs to increase college access and completion and, in turn, expand economic opportunity for more people throughout our region,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation. “Collaborations of this magnitude smartly beckon both introspection and an attentiveness to common purpose in advancing systemic changes
that can help to eliminate inequitable outcomes among Black and Latinx students, and their peers. We are humbled to work alongside businesses, government, nonprofits and our philanthropic peers to seed the execution of these plans as they take root in Southeast Michigan.”

The Regional Master Plan guiding the Compact is comprised of four major focus areas –
increasing postsecondary access, postsecondary success, adult educational attainment, and
talent preparation – and identifies national best practice strategies to implement in each area.

Partners submitted strategic plans using innovative techniques and unprecedented collaborative
approaches to reach the common goals of the Compact. Some highlights include:

  • Reducing the racial equity gaps by half. In order to achieve this goal, more than 90,000 Black and 15,000 Latinx students will need to earn degrees in the next decade. Combined, this represents 40% of the new 265,000 projected and additional degrees Detroit residents of all races and ethnicities need to earn by 2030. The Compact consists of the strategic framework to reach these racial equity goals by implementing proven and targeted supports to students who need it most.
  • Developing a higher education agenda to increase degree and credential completion. Twelve postsecondary institutions and associations committed to education reforms such as offering a postsecondary transition course to high schoolers prior to that student falling behind in college or expanding debt forgiveness to reduce barriers for returning adult students.
  • Unprecedented collaboration between Macomb, Oakland, Wayne Intermediate School Districts, DPSCD, and a coalition of charter school groups to incentivize full- and part-time students to maximize credits. K-12 stakeholders pledged to implement best practices to increase early postsecondary options and provide comprehensive college and career advising curriculums. Notably, the Detroit Charter High School Collaborative committed to having 90% of their high school graduates earn a full year’s work of college coursework by 2030.
  • Increasing number of employers providing tuition assistance to employees. Many business signatories of the Compact committed to building new or expanding existing tuition assistance programs and some are going so far as to also offer loan forgiveness programs for employees with student debt. This is significant as most experts predicted COVID-19 would cause employers to scale back these kinds of benefits.
  • Philanthropic partners for the first-time ever have created a coordinated framework to fund the strategies outlined in the Compact. This collectively represents over $18 million in aligned giving to the four focus areas outlined in the Regional Master Plan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her administration adopted the Chamber’s 60% by 2030 goal last year, and the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity submitted a strategic plan to improve the overall education attainment for the State of Michigan.

The Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council led this project, with staff support from the Chamber. The Council is co-chaired by Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, the president of Oakland University, and Richard Rassel, chairman for Butzel Long.

“Foremost, the Compact is a catalyst to heighten public awareness of the paramount need to support education, and for Michigan to have a highly educated workforce,” said Pescovitz. “The Compact represents a model of regional cooperation that could be applied for a range of other pressing issues. This effort effectively demonstrates that with informed and insightful leadership and the collaboration from a range of universities, colleges, institutions, the business community and nonprofit sector, we can come together to work toward a solution that leads to a better future.”

Rassel added: “The business community needs to fully embrace and support the Compact and its goals to enhance our regional competitiveness and meet our need for a more highly skilled workforce. Butzel Long, in addition to its continued support for many regional educational efforts, is introducing a tuition assistance program to enable its co-workers to upskill and earn their degrees and certificates.”

Businesses that are interested in getting involved should contact Melanie D’Eveleyn at mdevelyn@detroitchamber.com for more information and an introductory meeting. For more on the Detroit Regional Talent Compact, visit detroitchamber.com/compact.