Snyder unveils $100M ‘Marshall Plan for Talent’

Jonathan Oosting

Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday proposed a $100 million plan he said could help close the “talent gap” and prepare young people for high-paying, in-demand technology jobs of the future that may not necessarily require a four-year university degree.

The “Marshall Plan for Talent,” a reference to post-World War II efforts to rebuild Western Europe, proposes a variety of student scholarships, transportation or child care stipends, teacher incentives and school-business collaborations.

The Snyder administration projects there could be as many as 811,000 job openings through 2024 in fields facing worker shortages that pay, on average, $60,000 a year.

“Our country is facing a huge national challenge about getting people connected to careers, about having employers out there who are struggling to find people with the backgrounds they need to make their economies grow even faster and better,” Snyder said. “We’re currently holding ourselves back. That’s not right. That’s not good.”

The talent plan is a top priority for the term-limited Republican governor, who unveiled it at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit and described it as a “revolutionary” program that would live on beyond his tenure.

The proposal would require legislative approval, including a one-time transfer from a scholarship reserve fund Snyder says has an excess balance due to refinancing. The state would use the funding to launch the talent initiative as a five-year pilot project.

“This is a huge step in the right direction,” said House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, who attended the announcement with Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive. Their support will be critical for passage in a condensed election year.

“On behalf of the House, I just want to say, let’s go get it done,” Leonard said.

Advanced skills are needed in information technology fields and beyond, according to the governor’s office, which pointed to growing demand for technology-related jobs in manufacturing, health care, professional trades and other businesses.

Some of the careers require four-year degrees, but the administration is urging businesses to recognize “that many in-demand skills can be acquired through certificate programs and two-year degrees.”

The plan includes $25 million in scholarships and stipends targeting low-income residents to help them complete training in high-demand fields. The stipend could be used to help them “overcome obstacles” such as child care or transportation, according to an outline.

“Let’s provide support,” Snyder said. “Let’s get them in a great paying job. then they can support themselves and continue their education.”

Snyder’s proposal would provide grants to schools that collaborate with businesses to create and develop new class curriculum or programs for high-demand careers. Schools that partner with employers for matching funds could also qualify for grants to purchase new state-of-the-art equipment.

The state would create incentives for teachers to gain additional certifications and move into shortage areas, such as high school physics or career technical education. The state would also provide schools with resources to hire “career navigators” to work with school counselors and help students prepare for future jobs.

“To lead the world, and make no mistake our intention is to lead the world, we need to transform the way we prepare our workforce,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

Elements of the governor’s talent plan were included in Detroit’s failed bid to land Amazon’s second North American Headquarters, which local officials have said was rejected due to company concerns over talent attraction and public transportation.

Despite the setback, Snyder said he thinks Michigan is taking a proactive approach to closing the “talent gap” between in-demand jobs and qualified workers.

“Leading isn’t good enough,” he said in an interview with The Detroit News head of his official announcement. “We want them looking at our tail lights.”

The talent plan proposes specific incentives to increase the number of students with skills and credentials to pursue careers in cyber security.

It would also create a “Michigan Future Talent Council” featuring employers, educators and policy makers who would meet each year to identify high-demand skills and credentials that the state should focus on.

Meekhof said he is “fully in support” of Snyder’s talent plan but anticipates there will be debate over the details in Lansing.

“The overall goal is where we want to land,” Meekhof said. “We need more of our students to have degrees and certificates that place them in a well-paying job once they’ve completed that and give them the best opportunity to succeed.”

Staff Writer Ingrid Jacques contributed.