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Earning a grant from the National Institutes of Health is strong acknowledgment that four Detroit colleges are doing a good job catering to low-income, minority students.

The $21.2 million grant was awarded to the University of Detroit Mercy, Wayne State University, Marygrove College and Wayne County Community College District through a consortium known as the REBUILD Detroit project. Detroit Mercy is the lead college for the grant and will manage the funds.

The allocation will be distributed over five years to implement programs that encourage more undergraduate students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers in biomedical sciences, particularly research.

The REBUILD Detroit Project was formed to establish Detroit as a center for biomedical research training for underrepresented undergraduate students.

The bio-medical categories are an off-shoot of applied biology, chemistry and related sciences as they apply to field of medicine, notes University of Detroit Mercy President Antoine M. Garibaldi. "We want to first help get (students) an undergraduate degree and then encourage them to pursue graduate and doctorate degrees because there is such a shortage of under-represented groups in the bio-medical categories."

The project hopes to have at least 75 percent of its scholars graduate with baccalaureate degrees in biomedical science-related fields.

Michigan tackles skills gap

The need for skilled workers is a national problem, and Gov. Rick Snyder has the goal of making Michigan a top state in educating and training individuals for those slots.

But it won't be easy because Michigan has competition from other states also striving to become No. 1.

In addition, a newly formed, employer-led group known as UpSkill America is working nationally with companies, including some in Michigan, to fill the skilled worker void.

There is no doubt about the problem. Many of Michigan's 75,000 open jobs require skilled labor. Nationally, it is estimated 123 million skilled workers will be needed by 2020. Currently, only 50 million people possess the skills to meet these qualifications.

Sara Wurfel, Snyder's press secretary, says the governor feels he has a head start on making Michigan a top training ground. The governor has launched several training programs involving local community colleges. If Snyder succeeds, it would be an economic boon, producing skilled workers for companies already operating in the state.

Oakland attracts investments

Oakland County has again proven it is an attractive location for foreign companies to do business.

Officials report that in 2014 about $171 million was invested in the county by 30 international firms.

The companies accounted for about 25 percent of the $639 million of business investment in Oakland for that year. It translates into 1,941 new jobs.

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says the foreign funds are "the perfect hedge" for U.S. investments as the county continues its job creation efforts.

The county rightly prides itself on its varied international business investments.

More than 1,000 international firms from 38 countries have locations in Oakland County.

Particular recruiting focus has been placed on companies in the automotive, technology and medical device industries, officials note.

New jobs in diverse industries are needed not only in the metro area but throughout Michigan if the state is to continue its economic recovery.

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