Editorial: Make Michigan a talent powerhouse

The Detroit News

Jobs. Talent. Technology. These are some of the words Gov. Rick Snyder has used most the past eight years, and he’s now attempting to pull his administration's prior efforts into a comprehensive plan to make Michigan the go-to state for a highly skilled workforce. It’s an essential goal.

Gov. Rick Snyder lays out a convincing case for his blueprint to retain and create talent.

But it’s going to take significant collaboration among diverse players, from employers to schools — and it will take a major rethinking of how K-12 schools function. So expect resistance.

Snyder laid out the details of his Marshall Plan for talent Thursday in Detroit. With many lawmakers present, as well as representatives from the education and business communities, the governor made the case for why the state should follow his blueprint.

A quickly shifting economy tied to emergence of technology has created a new crop of careers — ones most schools aren’t adequately preparing students to enter. By 2024, Snyder estimates more than 800,000 jobs will be open in Michigan, and most will be good-paying positions. Top fields include information technology, health care and the skilled trades, all now experiencing a dearth of available talent.

The problem is that too many young people aren’t thinking about these careers, nor are they getting the kind of training to step into them.

“This is a huge national problem, and it’s a global problem in some ways,” Snyder said in an interview with The Detroit News ahead of the plan rollout. “And the people who solve it best are actually going to jump-start their economy even more. Companies will not only stay and grow here. Companies will come here. If you can show you have supply, you’re going to have demand showing up.”

The governor’s office says his Marshall Plan, named for the effort to rebuild Europe after World War II, would invest in “innovative programs, including competency-based certification, assistance for schools to improve curricula and classroom equipment, scholarships and stipends, and support for career navigators and teachers.”

More than $200 million is already dedicated to career and talent development, and this plan would devote about $100 million in new money over five years to create an overarching framework. And the money would come from an existing scholarship fund, which has seen better than anticipated investment returns.

Lawmakers need to sign off on the use of that funding, but both the House and Senate leaders have said they’d help in the effort.

“This is a big deal,” Snyder told The News. “I think this is one of the single most important things the state of Michigan can do. Period. Because if we don’t, other people are going to do it.”

Roger Curtis, director of the Department of Talent and Economic Development, will be working to get the plan in place. He recognizes some school leaders and teachers may resist at first, but when they see the success in other schools, they’ll come on board.

“At the end of the day, this is about our kids,” he said. “If we don’t do this, it’s a disservice.”

That’s a good reason for schools and employers to partner and commit to doing what’s best for the state’s future.