The following story was originally published on and written by Roger Curtis, Director, Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development. Click here to view the original story on

According to Area Development’s most recent surveys, the availability of skilled labor ranked among the top three site selection factors for corporate executives and consultants. In fact, 98 percent of consultants said access to talent is affecting their clients’ new facility or expansion plans, with the lack of advanced skills, in particular, cited by 92 percent of those surveyed. This talent gap — between the workforce we have and the one employers need — is not just a growing concern for businesses, but also for states and cities across the country.

Michigan’s Marshall Plan for Talent
In Michigan, we are no stranger to this challenge. From information technology and manufacturing to healthcare and other professional trades careers, Michigan will have more than 811,000 career openings to fill through 2024. That’s why the state is taking a proactive approach to bridging this talent gap. Michigan is charting a new course in the way we grow and retain talent by creating new pathways and approaches for preparing students and adults to compete and succeed in high-demand careers.

The state recently launched the Marshall Plan for Talent, an innovative partnership between educators, employers, and other stakeholders to transform Michigan’s talent pipeline and redesign the ways we invest in, develop, and attract talent in our state. The plan will invest an additional $100 million over the next five years to:

  • Develop 150 new courses to teach skills needed for 21st century jobs
  • Educate 55,000 people for in-demand careers
  • Upgrade 65 career centers with state-of-the-art equipment for learners
  • Train 5,000 cybersecurity students for IT/computer science careers
  • Provide 16,000 low-income/at-risk student scholarships and stipends for education in high-demand fields
  • Hire 150 career navigators to help students explore career options
  • Make education and career planning tools available to all students
  • Highlight career opportunities to students, parents, and educators
  • Encourage 150 teachers to mentor others and share best practices on implementing new in-demand courses and teaching methods

The Marshall Plan for Talent builds on the more than $225 million already dedicated to talent development efforts in the state. Since 2011, Michigan has increased K-12 education funding by $1.9 billion, including significant investments in resources for career and technical education, middle college programs and equipment, and increased spending in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs to get students excited about opportunities in these fields of study. The Marshall Plan provides a blueprint — and a call to action — to coordinate and expand these existing programs in order to create a leading talent development and education system rooted in lifelong learning.

Other States Address the Talent Shortage
The jobs of the future cannot be obtained with the skills of the past. They will require students, employees, and all job-seekers to attain marketable and transferable skills, and continuously build upon them through a variety of pathways, from certificate programs and on-the-job training to traditional college and advanced degrees. A strategic, lifelong approach to learning is the foundation that will make the future workforce prepared to compete for 21st century economy careers.

While the Marshall Plan for Talent is a Michigan innovation, the problem it is aiming to solve is by no means limited to one state or region. Communities all across the country are facing the challenge of attracting and retaining talent and businesses in today’s knowledge-meets-human economy — a fact that recently came front and center when major cities like Detroit, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and St. Louis were left off the short list of finalists competing for Amazon’s HQ2. The reason Amazon leaders gave was simple: insufficient talent pools.

According to the most recent NFIB Jobs Report, labor quality is also a top issue facing small business owners, with 89 percent of those hiring or trying to hire reporting few or no qualified applicants. In addition, estimates from the U.S. Department of Labor suggest there are roughly six million jobs going unfilled across the nation. To combat the growing talent gap challenge, many states are rethinking the way they grow, attract, and promote their skilled workforce to businesses.

For example, in Colorado, the TalentFOUND initiative helps bring together all the systems, partners, programs, and initiatives of the Colorado talent development network under one centralized access point. Managed by the Colorado Workforce Development Council, the goal of TalentFOUND is to leverage the talent development network to help students, job-seekers, workers, and businesses better understand and access tools and resources to create their own unique path to success.

The Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI) is a collaboration between business and the state’s Department of Economic Development aimed at connecting young Nebraskans in seventh and eighth grade to learning opportunities in the manufacturing and technology sectors. Launched in 2015 by Gov. Pete Ricketts, DYTI provides $125,000 in grant funding per year to two businesses that partner with the public schools to engage students in participation of hands-on career exploration and relevant workplace learning opportunities.

Most recently, Generation West Virginia — a statewide organization dedicated to attracting, retaining, and advancing young talent in the state — expanded its Impact Fellowship program. Modeled after Challenge Detroit, the program offers year-long, paid fellowship opportunities to connect young people in West Virginia and across the country with innovative jobs that allow them to stay or choose West Virginia as their home.

Like Michigan, these states and many others are acting to address the talent shortage through innovation solutions. It’s not just about connecting employers and job-seekers. It’s about tearing down the silos holding back education and career training and raising up new, collaborative systems rooted in lifelong learning.

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