New State of Education Report Details Education and Talent Needs of the Region

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s inaugural State of Education report serves as a call to action that change is needed to improve outcomes for education and talent to guarantee economic prosperity for the region. Chamber Chief Operating Officer Tammy Carnrike presented the report to more than 150 attendees at the new State of the Region session “Detroit 2030: From Education Crisis to Talent Hub.” Here are the key takeaways:

Though disparities in postsecondary outcomes exist between the city and the region, the region as a whole lags behind the nation in key measures

The leaks in the regional talent pipeline, where students are dropping off before earning a degree, exist not at just one stage but are prevalent throughout the pipeline.

With only 47% of regional students who enroll in college persisting to graduate after six years, there is a need to not just enroll students in postsecondary education but to ensure they earn a degree or credential, according to the Michigan Education Data Center.

The Detroit region, more than any of its national peers, must make education attainment a top priority to compete in today’s increasingly complex economy.

According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey One-Year Estimates, there are 694,995 regional adults who have postsecondary experience, but “stopped out” before earning a credential. Reengaging these adult students provides a significant opportunity for increasing education attainment.

In 2017, 36% of college graduates left the state within 12 months of graduating, according to Michigan State University Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. Keeping the educated talent in our state post-graduation will contribute to increasing the population of adults with degrees.

State of Education: Detroit’s Turnaround

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, discussed the city’s challenges in improving its schools, naming poor infrastructure and need for support from the business community as some of its challenges. Carnrike discussed with Vitti the district’s achievements in recent years, and its areas for opportunity.

Detroit students lag behind students in surrounding school districts because of economic inequality, said Vitti. Public schools in wealthier districts receive considerably more funding per student, giving them the advantage over Detroit students.

“To educate the average Detroiter takes more funding than educating the average Birmingham student,” Vitti said.

Students also face non-academic relation issues, Vitti explained. He notes that social-economic factors should not be discounted, including food and housing, and that Michigan has been stagnant from a systems policy perspective.

“We have to think about strategies and investments to change that.”

Carnrike asked Vitti on what he considers to be the district’s two-year priority challenges. Vitti named investing in teachers, career opportunities for students, and infrastructure.

“Facilities do matter – our schools are deteriorating,” said Vitti. “By 2023, our buildings would need 1.5 billion dollars. The state does not mark one cent for capital improvement.”

While the district struggles in many areas, it has made strides in recent years. Enrollment has increased for the first time in over a decade, said Vitti. And most students showed improvement individually.

“Our level of improvement outpaced the rest of the state,” said Vitti.

Detroit’s Adult College Students: ‘It’s Never Too Late to Go’

For the region’s 690,000 adults with some college education, no degree or credential, returning to school can seem daunting, especially for individuals saddled with debt. Recognizing the need to grow Southeast Michigan’s talent pipeline, Detroit Drives Degrees is working with regional leaders to increase access among adults to pursue postsecondary educational opportunities for high-quality credentials, two-year and four-year degrees.

Detroit Drives Degrees hosted its Leadership Council meeting in June, bringing together leading representatives in higher education, business, government, philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. This meeting focused on adult talent and how adults can find their way back to and complete postsecondary education.

Working on a Dream

For Bob Ellis, a real estate agent and Macomb Community College (Macomb) student, returning to school was a big life decision. Raised in a working-class family, Ellis said college was never encouraged. But after a series of setbacks in his 40s, he realized he wanted to improve his life and follow his dream of getting a degree. Ellis returned to school to enhance his skills and follow his passion to help people.

Ellis struggled early on in college, as he lacked the necessary reading comprehension and study skills required at the college level. It wasn’t until he was placed into a student cohort that he was able to excel, learn study habits, and feel part of a community. Ellis transferred to Wayne State University (WSU), but faced higher tuition bills and a sense of uncertainty about his chosen degree path. He’s put his college attainment on hold while he saves money and further explores career opportunities after he obtains his degree.

Tiffany Treadwell returned to college after a career in retail with companies like Apple and Shinola. Treadwell said through her sales experience, she developed an interest in advocacy and human resources. Committed to return to school to obtain a bachelor’s degree but with few financial resources, Treadwell applied for a job with the university to take advantage of WSU’s tuition-free policy for employees. The transition back to school was challenging and although she used WSU’s tutoring programs, she didn’t meet the academic requirement for her first semester. Determined to continue, she used her advocacy skills and appealed her case to the Provost’s Office. She’s now back on-track, working and in school, as well as helping the university improve their systems for re-engaging adult students.

Both Ellis and Treadwell shared their story as part of a panel discussion moderated by David Scobey, director of the national initiative, Bringing Theory to Practice. Bringing Theory to Practice encourages and supports colleges and universities in developing sustainable campus cultures that support engaged learning and discovery, civic purpose, well-being, and preparation for a meaningful life.

A second panel moderated by Melanie D’Evelyn, director of Detroit Drives Degrees, featured Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at WSU, Scott Anderson, vice president of human resources at Comcast, and Scobey. Focusing on the roles that institutional leaders play in an adult’s education, panelists discussed the importance of changing the learning practices that are in place, and rules that could potentially leave behind adult students due to grades or unpaid debt.

Finding Your Way Back to School

Businesses are encouraging adult education through tuition reimbursement. Comcast offers tuition reimbursement to employees and research by the Lumina Foundation showcases the return on investment for employers. WSU now offers one of the most innovative strategies in the country to re-engage adult learners. As announced at the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference, WSU created the Warrior Way Back program for returning students. Warrior Way Back relieves past student tuition balances of former students who did not graduate.

Detroit Drives Degrees is also working to improve opportunities for adults to further their education, by focusing on creating a community of leaders that can be used to learn from each other to continue to create opportunities for adults to continue to pursue their degree. Detroit Drives Degrees is also developing a formal compact among higher education partners and others to better track and measure components of the talent pipeline, like reducing the percent of the adult population with some college, no degree.

To learn more about the Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council visit: www.detroitchamber.com/detroit-drives-degrees/leadership

Southeast Michigan’s New Online Platform to Give Businesses the Tools to Attract Talent

Research shows that 36 percent of college students left Michigan within a year in 2017. For a region positioning itself to lead the world in technological innovation, the talent problem can no longer be ignored.

To stop the flow of individuals leaving and attract new talent, the Detroit Regional Chamber will launch a new strategy this fall. The strategy is a collaborative project of the Detroit Regional Chamber and Detroit Drives Degrees, an economic development initiative of Forward Detroit focused on increasing the number of adults in the region with a postsecondary degree or credential.

Gathering Best Practices for Talent Retention

This past year, Detroit Drives Degrees connected with more than 1,000 people within the region to conduct local surveys and interviews. Research revealed that half of employers recruit out of state but lack the tools to promote Michigan and Detroit. Additionally, Michigan rarely is on the radar of young talent. While young people’s perceptions of Detroit are changing, they rely heavily on feedback from peers.

Greg Handel, the Chamber’s vice president of education and talent, shared that the strategy will help fill a void by establishing a centralized location for people looking for more information on the city and region. Through the strategy’s various components, it will better promote all that Detroit and the region has to offer – from a booming restaurant scene, to fun outdoor events. The strategy is focused on driving economic development by retaining and attracting talent across Southeast Michigan and aligns with Detroit Drives Degrees’ goal to increase the regional postsecondary attainment rate to 60 percent by 2030.

The recruitment strategy has three main objectives:

  • Improve the narrative and global perception of Detroit and Southeast Michigan
  • Promote “brain gain” by increasing graduates in Southeast Michigan by 1 percent annually
  • Cultivate an innovative, engaged and culture-focused business community

“Talent is the fuel for the region and contributes the most to economic growth and prosperity,” Handel said.

Showcasing Detroit’s Reinvention

A panel featuring three ambassadors for the strategy including Darvell Powell, president of Black Young Professionals of Metro Detroit; Tim Robinson, director of operations at Lenawee Now; and Dana Williams, manager of public affairs at DTE, agreed that giving prospective talent the ability to learn about the region and connect in an authentic way will pay dividends for businesses.

“When people aren’t connected, they aren’t going to stay around; they need to feel included and engaged in the city,” said Powell.

To learn more, contact Sarah Craft at scraft@detroitchamber.com.

Daniel Little Receives Inaugural Award for Excellence in Education and Leadership

The Chamber, through its Detroit Drives Degrees initiative, presented Daniel Little, outgoing chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UMD), its inaugural Excellence in Education and Leadership award during the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference. The award recognizes impactful leaders that play a role in growing the region’s higher education graduates.

The award was presented by Richard Rassel, chairman at Butzel Long and Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council co-chair. Rassel expressed his appreciation for Little’s legacy of higher education stating, “he brings a unique value to the students.”

Little, who has served as university chancellor since 2000, stepped down in June. Little also serves as a professor of philosophy at UMD and a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. As Leadership Council co-chair, Little raises awareness on the importance of developing the region’s workforce to grow the economy and positively impact the lives of Detroiters.

Rassel said Little is a selfless leader stating, “while he has always been passionate about raising the profile of his own institution, University of Michigan-Dearborn, he also has remained loyal to a vision of universities and community colleges collaborating together on behalf of the region. This is the spirit that undergirds Detroit Drives Degrees. Without any ego but with tremendous skill and a leadership style marked by inclusivity, Chancellor Little has left an enduring legacy.”

Prior to presenting Little with the award, Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent for the Detroit Regional Chamber, announced the award will be given every year and dubbed it the Dan Little Award in Excellence in Education and Leadership, adding that Little “set the bar very, very high for future awardees.”

On accepting the award, Little emphasized the important work of Detroit Drives Degrees and the value of higher education.

“It is an honor to have served as co-chair of the Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council. The work of the Chamber and its partners is critical for our state, region and the Detroit Drives Degrees students who now have a brighter future,” he said.

Business Leaders: Education Reform and Job Creation Will Help Michigan ‘Live Long and Prosper’

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah and Education Attainment Manager Melanie D’Evelyn spoke at the Michigan Solutions Summit on Thursday, March 22 to share insight on the Chamber’s ongoing efforts towards education reform, job creation, and talent retention in metro Detroit. The event was hosted by Business Leaders for Michigan and Bridge magazine.

The More You Learn the More You Earn
D’Evelyn outlined Detroit Drives Degrees’ plan to increase the percentage of postsecondary degrees in the metro Detroit region to 60 percent by 2030. Currently, about 40 percent of Detroiters hold a postsecondary degree.

“Detroit Drives Degrees’ goal is to create an education compact and collaborate with different sectors (nonprofits, higher education, philanthropy) toward reaching a common goal,” D’Evelyn said.. “We want the public to hold us accountable.”

The compact’s work has already begun. Wayne State University (WSU) Provost Keith Whitfield announced at the summit that the university is creating a program that allows adults who left college to re-enroll without paying back the full amount of educational debt they accumulated. The idea is that the university will absorb some of that debt to encourage adults to focus on completing their degrees.

Whitfield also announced that WSU is investing in academic advisors to help current students succeed and building partnerships to offer more paid internships to students. Both Whitfield and D’Evelyn are hoping that other universities will see the benefits of these innovations and create similar programs.

Regional Collaboration Will Drive Job Creation
After D’Evelyn’s discussion on educational reform, Baruah, along with Dave Egner, President and CEO of the Ralph Wilson Foundation, and Kim Trent, Wayne State University Board of Directors sat on a panel to discuss how job creation and talent retention fit into the regional improvement puzzle.

Baruah addressed several roadblocks that currently hinder business growth and investment in the region that would, in turn, produce prosperous jobs to retain educated Michiganders. One such roadblock is a lack of connected, reliable regional transit.

“What is preventing regional transit? Essentially, two things: one, change is an issue of culture. People in Michigan love cars and grew up in the auto culture, and they don’t want that to change,” Baruah said. “And the second big issue is a lingering sense of distrust between Detroiters and suburbanites. People don’t want to pay higher taxes for a system they don’t think they’ll use.”

Aside from transit, the lack of qualified talent was another issue Baruah cited as preventing Detroit from attracting new business. He emphasized the region’s need to invest in talent, encourage people to go into the skilled trades, and repurpose money used to incarcerate non-violent criminals to reintroduce these individuals into Michigan’s workforce.

Both D’Evelyn and Baruah emphasized that collaboration between the public and private sectors is what will drive education reform, job creation and talent retention for the state and region. By working together, Detroiters can create a region where everyone can prosper.