Preparing talent for a global economy


This year’s Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference gave me some great opportunities to talk to an important group of Michigan State University stakeholders about education, research, and deepening the state of Michigan’s talent base.

I’ve joined my fellow University Research Corridor (URC) colleagues from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan for the past several years at the annual Mackinac Island conference. With URC Executive Director Jeff Mason, we represent our institutions to news media and to the government and business leaders attending the conference.

Each year, we release a study of our collective impact on a Michigan economic sector. Past reports have focused on advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurship, and water and the “blue economy.” This year’s report is titled “Attracting, Fostering, and Inspiring Talent for the Global Economy.”

I invite you to read the report or a summary news release. Both describe the distinctive and important assets the research-intensive URC universities bring to Michigan. The three schools collectively produce more than 32,000 graduates each year, including more than 19,000 bachelor’s- and nearly 13,000 advanced-degree recipients. More than one third of the degrees earned are in high-demand fields such as medicine and engineering. 

Our undergraduate and graduate programs are elevated by our research orientation. URC universities spend $2.1 billion annually on research, activity that helps improve quality of life and is the work of many of the nearly 12,000 world-class faculty members we employ and the more than 35,000 graduate students we enroll. 

The report discusses how we attract, develop, and retain exceptionally talented people from Michigan and around the world. It notes the value of our extensive talent networks, and it explains the qualitative difference an education from our institutions makes—something I’ve talked about in terms of developing “T-shaped” skills. We aim to produce graduates who enter the work force with skill sets deep in specialized knowledge and broad in connective skills, including communication and teamwork.

The report, researched and written by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group, also found that native Michigan graduates are three times more likely to begin their careers in the state if they earn their degrees from a Michigan college or university. And our three institutions boast a global network of more than 1.2 million living alumni, with more than half living in Michigan.

The need for more workforce skills training below the four-year-degree level was a recurring theme at the Mackinac conference. Many jobs that don’t require bachelor’s degrees are going unfilled. Michigan State, for one, is working to accommodate such demand through select programs, including our Institute for Agricultural Technology, which offers certificate programs running two years or less.

I view it as an “and” issue, not an “or” issue. Michigan needs suitable education options for all its residents. I’m proud to join my fellow URC presidents to represent a research and talent cluster that is competitive with any in the country—one that attracts and develops talent fit to succeed in Michigan and anywhere in the world.

URC presidents interviewed by Carol Cain at the 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, left, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson  interviewed by WWJ TV's Carol Cain May 28 at the 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference.


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