This story was written by Naheed Huq on and published on March 5, 2018. Click here to view the original publication of this blog post on 

Transforming education is a team effort that requires passion, coordination, timing, collaboration, and broad support. Governor Snyder unveiled his Marshall Plan for Talent at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit last month with a leadership team from the Michigan legislature, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development, as well as students and business representatives.

Their goal is to align Michigan’s education system to strengthen the state’s economy. SEMCOG, the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition (MAC), and many of our members and partners were at the announcement because our region’s economic growth depends on having a workforce with the right skills and implementation needs to happen at the local level.

The plan accelerates innovation and transforms education to meet talent needs through partnerships and pathways. It will provide $100 million to support efforts to prepare young people for more than 800,000 in-demand jobs by 2024 in fields such as information technology, manufacturing, health care, business, and professional trades. These jobs will pay an average of $60,000 per year and are projected to contribute $50 billion to Michigan’s economy.

Governor Snyder described some key elements of the Marshall Plan. These include the Learning Paradigm, which focuses on competency-based education; a new Michigan Future Talent Council that will meet annually to identify in-demand skills and credentials; and development or expansion of certificate programs and equipment, student scholarships, career exploration, and teacher development in areas of shortage such as physics and Career Technical Education. These initiatives are closely aligned in principle with the SEMCOG/MAC Education Reform recommendations.

The team spoke in favor of policies that will make it easier to close the talent gap and grow the economy, prepare young people for careers that require post-secondary education – including but not limited to four-year degrees — and encourage businesses to recognize the value of certificates, two-year degrees, and other credentials.

While there are several noteworthy initiatives to help prepare students for careers, the Marshall Plan is a “Capstone Accelerator,” or Call to Action, that invests in career exploration on a statewide level and creates programs as well as support systems to connect students to specific career pathways. Programs such as Career Technical EducationMichigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2), and FIRST Robotics are just a few of the ways students are currently developing a combination of academic and work-based skills.

What do students say?

The MAT2 program uses an apprenticeship model to provide students with academic instruction towards an associate’s degree and on-the-job training in areas such as mechatronics. Austin Cronin, a 2011 high school graduate who pursued the MAT2 program now works full-time at ZF North America as a Product Test Technician. He says, “It was the best decision of my life because I learned about hydraulics and robotics, and it opened up so many doors for me.” FIRST Robotics is an international high school robotics competition where students learn about science and technology through hands-on training with support of professional engineers. Mary Benton, a senior at Plymouth-Canton High School and member of the FIRST Robotics Team will be pursuing Biomedical Engineering in college partly because of her experience on the team. She said it helped her with geometry, CAD, writing, public speaking, and teamwork – all essential skills for a successful career.

What do employers say?

Allison Corey, Talent Acquisition lead for ZF North America, the second-largest automotive supplier in the U.S., emphasized the need for students who are excited about science and engineering for the company to succeed. She highlighted some of the partnerships the company has developed with schools and universities to attract students with mechatronics and electrical engineering education and skills, as well as attracting more females into engineering.

What do legislators say?

Speaker Tom Leonard and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the Marshall Plan was a priority for them in advancing skilled-trades talent in Michigan to fill current open positions, as well as the 40 percent of jobs (in the next 10 years) that have not yet been invented.

Transforming education is a team effort that requires support from all stakeholders including students, employers, policy makers, and legislators. It should recognize college degrees, certificates, and apprenticeships as pathways to career success. In addition, it requires public awareness about the changing talent landscape. Future career opportunities will need both technical and soft skills, which need to be refreshed as our economy continues to evolve.

The new SEMCOG/MAC Future Skills Task Force will convene business, education, labor, workforce development, and government organizations to identify the education and training infrastructure for future workforce skills, and position Southeast Michigan for long-term economic success. Look out for more information on this in the coming weeks.

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