Michigan Needs to Commit to “Total Talent”

John Austin is the current Director of the Michigan Economic Center and former President of Michigan State Board of Education. Brandy Johnson is the current Executive Director of the Michigan College Access Network. Both serve as members of the Michigan Higher Education Attainment Roundtable (MIHEART).

Over a dozen years ago then-Governor Granholm charged Lt. Governor John Cherry and a coalition of state leaders to develop a plan to help Michigan dramatically increase the number of citizens with a postsecondary credential – an essential starting point for success in the modern economy. The Cherry Commission’s recommendations gave birth to the Michigan College Access Network and saw passage of state legislation to help more Michiganders be prepared for and be able to access and pay for essential higher education. 

As our economy and labor market has continued to change, today it is more important than ever that all Michiganders be equipped with the skills and education beyond high school to be prepared for the jobs of today, and those that will emerge tomorrow. 

We are very excited to share the work of a coalition of Michigan business, military, law enforcement, higher education, education, philanthropic and government leaders: the Michigan Higher Education Attainment Roundtable (MIHEART)—convened and facilitated by MCAN—who have laid out a new blueprint and call to action to build Michigan’s talent.

The “Total Talent” report challenges Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, her team, and the Legislature to act with greater urgency to meet Michigan’s talent gap. The report shows that while Michigan has increased its rate of postsecondary credential attainment to almost 44% of the population, those and communities with higher rates are the ones reaping economic gains in the form of job creating and employer attraction.

Today the pace of change in the workplace is accelerating–high-wage/skill jobs growing, middle-skill jobs changing, and low-skill jobs disappearing.  Since 2011, 99% of new jobs have required education past high school. Many workers are seeing jobs automated and facing dislocation—particularly in Michigan. To adapt, all Michiganders need some form of postsecondary credential as a starting point on an evolving career path, and lifelong acquisition of new skills and credentials as the workplace changes.

The report notes that Michigan has shifted the burden of paying for postsecondary education on to the backs of students and families and now has one of the highest shares of higher education costs being borne by students and families–6th highest in the nation. Michigan also has more workers than almost every state already on the job with some college, but no degree (20%) and these workers are at risk of seeing their occupations disappear. 

In recent years we have seen significant progress made by Michigan’s talent preparers —Michigan’s public and independent colleges and universities—to cut costs, get more bang for our taxpayer buck by improving access and creating efficient paths “to and through” postsecondary credential attainment and ensuring learners successfully complete degree and certification programs.

But to meet the needs of Michigan’s employers and equip our citizens with the tools they need to succeed, the report challenges the Governor-elect Whitmer and the Legislature to work more urgently to meet our goal of more than 60% of our citizens earning a degree or postsecondary certificate.

To accomplish this goal—MIHEART’s priority recommendations include significantly increasing state-provided need-based financial aid to make education past high school accessible and affordable for all students; and more aggressive state outreach and financial support for the 20% of Michigan workers already in the labor market with some college and no degree, so they can earn a credential that will allow them to get and keep a good job.

Other recommendations of MIHEART in “Total Talent” are to:

  • Improve career/college awareness and advising at high school and college levels
  • Enhance collaboration between K-12 and higher education institutions to improve alignment and acceptance of credit in rigorous academic areas
  • Improve transfer and credit acceptance between various higher education institutions for seamless learning and credential earning
  • Increase high school student participation in all forms of powerful and cost-saving early postsecondary credit-earning programs (dual enrollment, Early/Middle Colleges, CTE, and AP/IB course taking)
  • Enhance higher education institutions work in institutional completion and success strategies so all learners finish their programs and earn a valuable credential.

You can learn more about MIHEART and the Total Talent agenda at http://www.micollegeaccess.org/advocacy/miheart


Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director, Michigan College Access Network 




Author: John Austin, Director of the Michigan Economic Center, Former President of Michigan State Board of Education





Posted: Nov. 9, 2018

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