Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > Business-led Approaches to Solving the Talent Crisis

Business-led Approaches to Solving the Talent Crisis

May 30, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The Detroit Regional Chamber’s robust education and talent portfolio brings the employers, schools and other partners together to increase educational attainment and strengthen the talent pipeline.
  • Addressing the talent crisis requires identifying successful education and workforce programs and scale them across the Region.
  • Apprenticeships and visa programs are two examples of programs that can help nurture talent to meet needs for specific industries, such as health care.


Addressing Talent Pipeline Leaks

About a half million working-age adults in the Detroit Region are disconnected from the workforce.  This means they are neither employed nor actively seeking employment.

The Detroit Regional Chamber tracks these types of statistics in its annual State of Education and Talent report as part of its examination of the Detroit Region’s labor market and the condition of the talent pipeline and how it is meeting employer needs.

According to Handel, the 2023 report showed that for every 100 students only 35 out of 100 earned a postsecondary credential ten years after starting high school reflecting a leaky talent pipeline.

“We have five community colleges in this Region. We have over 100 school districts. We have four large public universities. We have six Michigan Works! agencies,” he said, outlining how the Chamber programs can help employers build their own talent strategies and connect with universities and colleges.

“There’s no way to tackle [the] problem of talent pipeline leaks without creating a table to bring all of those partners together,” he said.

Handel went on, stating that it’s crucial “to bring as many partners together to figure out what’s working, scale what does, figure out where the gaps are, and how to fill those without looking at this at a regional level and trying to tackle that head on that way.”

Doing so is critical to ensuring that 60% of working-age Michiganders earn a postsecondary credential or degree by 2030 – a goal the Chamber set for the Region that the state eventually adopted.

Scaling Local Talent Solutions Across the Region

The other panelists agreed with Handel, concluding that a large part of solving the talent crisis is developing scalable strategies.

Harrington-Davis shared about Corewell’s venture with two other health care systems, the city of Detroit, and Oakland University as an example of why scalability is important. They partnered together to educate and place patient care sitters and assistants into new jobs. Despite successfully hiring over 200 new workers, “it wasn’t scalable for the organization, so it fizzled out.”

“It worked for then, but I would say for now, we need to come together, not only as health systems but also with our regional partners, our schools,” she said. “We need to … really put together something that is long-lasting. And with that, we have to put thingstogether that will upskill our current population of employees, and also reach out into that half a million people … that aren’t employed and bring them into the health care system as well.”

Innovative Approaches to Solving the Talent Crisis

Susko cautioned that collaboration alone won’t solve the crisis, and that thinking outside of the box is equally necessary.

One innovative approach is looking at different communities of workers that often face unique barriers to the workforce, such as returning citizens and immigrants.

There are more than 33,000 international students attending a higher education institution in Michigan at any one time, according to Handel, and most are concentrated in STEM fields.

“There are opportunities for employers to tap into that population now. There’s the OPT (Optical Practical Training) program that allows those students to work without an additional visa for a year. In some instances, that can be extended as far as three years,” he said.

Handel also acknowledged many employers’ hesitancies to go that route due to visa requirements and other red tape, but he emphasized how resources such as Global Detroit can make the option manageable.

Another innovative approach many employers that partner with the Chamber, like Henry Ford Health, are beginning to explore is apprenticeships. These create new pathways into professions previously inaccessible to individuals without degrees.

“I’m so pleased to be able to work … for real career development into jobs and positions that many people didn’t know about before they entered, and really starting younger and earlier or sooner in a career progression than we ever have before,” Susko said.

In addition to apprenticeships, Henry Ford Health also provides high school partnerships and collaborates with career and technical education programs, such as its Nursing Assistant to Bachelor of Science Nursing program with Michigan State University.

Regardless of the approach, all three panelists had a similar vision for what the future will look like once the talent crisis is addressed with a focus on the health care system.

“[It will be a place where] we have deeper relationships with pipelining for those that have criminal convictions … that require accommodations … who are veterans. Where we have solid pipelining within the careers, within health care,” Harrington-Davis said. “Also, that our communities are vibrant and thriving, and Michigan is the best place to come live and work, and we have the ability to recruit people from outside of Michigan into Michigan to live within our communities. At the same step, we have also targeted that half a million … and we’ve engaged them into health care, and we’ve been able sell to them that this is a great place to work … and most of all, on top of that, that we have healthier communities.”

This session was sponsored by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.