Column written by Roger Curtis for on February 25, 2018. Click here to view the original publication on

Our fathers wouldn’t recognize the high-tech workplaces of today. So why do we prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow with an educational structure that would be all too familiar to our grandfathers — and their grandparents, too?

It’s time for an education revolution, and Michigan must be driven to be the leader in the way we are growing and retaining talent. Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday revealed the Marshall Plan for Talent. It’s a call to action for Michigan to create new approaches toward preparing students and adults for all careers.

Actually, it’s more than that. It’s an urgent call to transform our schools and our perceptions about learning. We need to destroy the status quo. We need to embrace the idea that learning must continue throughout our lives — not just what we have long considered the traditional K-12 and college years.

Be it information technology, manufacturing, health care, construction, agriculture, finance, and even the automobile, we have seen incredible, sweeping transformations in our workplaces as technology has brought massive change to these industries, and the jobs in them. But too few of our schools are keeping pace.

Let me be clear. This is not an indictment of our great educators. I have genuine, deep respect and admiration for them. They are unsung heroes, and I’m proud to call State Superintendent Brian Whiston my partner in this important work.

But our antiquated education system can restrict, stifle and even suffocate the most innovative and progressive educators and employers preparing children and adults for careers.

We must challenge and inspire government, educators, employers, and ourselves as parents, to work more closely than ever, and recognize, Michigan’s economic future depends on our collaboration — because none of us can do this alone.

We must accelerate innovation at every level of Michigan’s system of education. Our schools must become hubs for career exploration, competency learning, partnerships and aspiration that leads to a lifetime of learning.

The Marshall Plan’s investments and partnerships will keep the state’s surging economy on track. This will help more Michiganians find good-paying jobs in high-demand career fields well into the future.

Our state’s economic reinvention already has created more than 540,000 new private-sector jobs, but many more jobs are still going unfilled. Michigan will have more than 811,000 career openings to fill through 2024 in fields facing a talent shortage. That’s $49 billion in potential earnings.

The Marshall Plan calls for investing $100 million in new funding dedicated to 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.

That funding will complement the more than $225 million dedicated to ongoing talent development efforts here.

The world is changing at a pace we can barely even imagine. It’s not going to let up, nor wait for Michigan to catch up. We must decide, right now, if Michigan will be the leader in investing, developing and attracting talent. Then we must make it happen. This is our moment.

Roger Curtis is director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development.

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