Detroit Regional Chamber > Education & Talent > Tackling Talent Needs for Michigan Employers

Tackling Talent Needs for Michigan Employers

May 30, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Michigan is a leading producer of talent in the STEM and health care fields.
  • Despite concerns about the value proposition of higher education, higher education leaders are confident about the state of talent in Michigan.
  • Efforts are being made to prepare students for future job opportunities through early exposure and dispelling myths about higher education.


The State of Talent in Michigan

Clark opened the discussion by acknowledging the state of higher education in Michigan today. Despite its current stability, she noted that “we are in a really critical moment … for our educators … institutions … employers.”

All four university presidents agreed, with Pink praising the talent and education landscape in Michigan.  Despite being “on the backside of a pandemic,” he emphasized how Michigan institutions have shown unwavering progress.

This is demonstrated in some of the stats Ono cited, including that:

  • There are 1.7 million graduates of the University Research Corridor—an alliance between Michigan State University, the University of Michigan (U-M), and Wayne State University.
  • Michigan is one of the largest generators of talent in the STEM and health care fields.
  • Michigan has more graduates than Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Northern or Southern California on an annual basis.

“The talent production from our higher education sector is really impressive,” Ono said.

Despite this positivity, Pink noted that there are still some concerns – notably, how many people are questioning whether higher education is necessary.

“In my career … I have never seen the value proposition of higher education so questioned across our country,” Pink said. “I don’t know if we do the best job of getting the message out of just what that value proposition truly is. And we’re going to dig into that, but what I’m hearing is the state of talent is confident.”

Preparing Talent for the Jobs of the Future

Guskiewicz said that while the current state of talent is commendable, he urges continuous forward-thinking to improve it further. This proactive approach ensures that today’s students and tomorrow’s talent are well-equipped for future job opportunities.

“What are we doing to prepare students and graduates for jobs and careers of the future? This year’s graduates graduated in 2024, but they’re going to be retiring from their careers in the year 2074, perhaps. What jobs and careers are going to exist then?” he said. “And so, we have to be thinking ahead about what will be needed for that future talent pool, and I think that’s what each of our universities is trying to do right now.”

The university presidents revealed various strategies they employ to ready the future talent pool. These include early exposure of students to companies and partners for better career insight and debunking myths about higher education for public awareness.

Pink cited exposure as a great way to keep college graduates in Michigan, stating that “the more we can focus on getting them connected to incredible businesses that we have here in the state prior to graduation … we have a better opportunity to keep them here.”

Pescovitz explained the importance of educating individuals about the significance of college and the attainability of accessing it, emphasizing its affordability—a proactive measure to expand the talent pool.

“It’s not just educating [students], but it’s educating the world outside of your institutions,” Pescovitz said. “It’s really important that we dispel the myths of the [Michigan Voter Poll] because when [the public hears] about that, they hear that college is not important; it’s not necessary for jobs. Let’s dispel that.”

Plus, it’s crucial to dispel those myths because, in Michigan, 37 out of the 50 hottest jobs of the future require a four-year degree.

“That’s not just important for the students. That’s important for the businesses, and that’s important for the economy,” she said.

This session was sponsored by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.