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Forming an Alliance to Shrink the Talent Gap

The EvoLLLution | Forming an Alliance to Shrink the Talent Gap
Forming strong partnerships between postsecondary institutions, K-12 schools and employers, and reimagining the credentialing environment to create and allow for more diversity, is critical to shrinking the talent gap and driving economic growth.
The talent gap is the top threat to Michigan’s sustained economic prosperity. We want our employers to be creating more and better jobs so our children can stay here in Michigan with their families after graduating.

But it’s important to note that this gap isn’t unique to Michigan. States across the nation are experiencing similar challenges in finding talent for high-demand, high-paying careers. Michigan is focused on building a robust pipeline of talent with the 21st century skills employers are desperately seeking.

We hear the same story from employers across the state. Talent is a prime factor in decisions on where to grow and locate, and that includes small businesses and the large projects we are aggressively trying to attract. Ultimately, the state that best closes the talent gap will have a distinct advantage over others as companies are deciding where to locate and expand. Michigan is well on its way to becoming that state, and the 17 recommendations from the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance are charting the course.

It’s clear: Students need better career exploration opportunities and access to multiple career pathways and schools need more support to enhance programs to close Michigan’s talent gap and build a more prosperous future for the state.

How Innovative Partnerships Can Support Michigan’s Economic Success

Community colleges, universities, and all postsecondary training programs play a vital role in supporting Michigan’s continued economic success by providing residents with the training and education needed to fill the thousands of jobs coming back to our state. The high-demand, high-paying jobs of today and the rewarding and transformational careers of tomorrow will all require some sort of postsecondary training.

But there’s another role for higher education to play. We want our educators to consider themselves partners with our employers and K-12 districts. They all need to be at the table, with employers talking about trends and needs for careers today and tomorrow, and the schools looking at how to prepare students for those great careers.

There are some pretty big silos out there. We know knocking them all the way down probably isn’t going to happen. But if we can bring them down a ways, so everyone can see what is going on and talk, then I think we can make great progress.

All of these entities—schools, colleges and employers—are tremendously important. But they all can be part of the same community. The closer they can work together, the stronger those communities can be. 

Innovative Credentialing and Supporting the Work-Readiness of Michiganders

What’s more, there’s not just one pathway to a great job. Some careers require a four-year degree, and we never discourage anyone from going down that pathway. But there are many jobs that require only a certificate.

There are more than 100,000 jobs going unfilled here in our state, many in professional trades industries like advanced manufacturing, automotive, construction, healthcare and information technology. And by 2024, those careers will account for more than 500,000 jobs in Michigan’s economy.

It’s important that we provide our young people with a variety of options to obtain the skills and knowledge necessary to fill these jobs. Those skills, knowledge and training come from postsecondary institutions and training programs alike.

Certifications and credentials are a great way to gain the training and skills needed to be successful in several professional trades careers. These career paths help students and all Michiganders fast-track their careers, and often with little to no student debt.  

We know there is no one-size-fits-all mold for students. Each student is unique and there are multiple pathways to a successful high-demand, high-wage job.

We also know that the rate of change is only going to increase, and increase more rapidly than we can ever imagine. That means that people are going to be preparing for lifelong learning, gaining new, portable and stackable skills for new opportunities.

The old idea of the career ladder is changing, and a career lattice will be different for everyone, with multiple pathways.

Postsecondary institutions and employers play a critical role in providing multiple pathways to success, gaining the needed skills and knowledge along the way, within their institutions and organizations.

The Role of the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance

The Michigan Career Pathways Alliance—a joint initiative between the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development and the Michigan Department of Education—is working hard to create a variety of pathways for students to explore and gain the skills needed for the array of great careers available in Michigan. Its goal is to help students explore the various pathways to high-demand, high-wage careers here in Michigan and choose the path that best fits their career goals.

Gov. Rick Snyder created the Alliance because he recognizes that retaining, developing and attracting talent will require new perspectives and partnerships to create new solutions. The Alliance brought together representatives from business and education and really listened to their concerns. Then it came up with a series of recommendations to address the challenges. Some are policy changes, and some will require legislative support. Others are just starting and changing conversations. There are some things that have come together quickly and others that are long-term goals.

From the state’s perspective, our role is to provide schools with the assistance and resources needed to attain that goal, while also connecting the dots between businesses and education.

If we are to close our state’s talent gap, business talking with education must become the new norm. And we’re doing just that through the series of 17 recommendations set forth by the Alliance.

You can learn more about the Alliance and its initiatives designed to create multiple career paths for our students and close our talent gap at

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