Panel: Aligning business and the workforce with higher education to grow Michigan’s economy

Panel: Aligning business and the workforce with higher education to grow Michigan’s economy

  • Senior institutions and the business community must be intentional partners to create a productive and effective pipeline.
  • Preparing students for the workforce should start at a young age, not just during and after college.
  • Everyone has a role to play in increasing funding for higher education, from the state to the colleges and universities themselves.

President of Henry Ford College during the 2024 Detroit Policy Conference Russian Kavalhuna and chancellor of Ferris State University Bill Pink Acuitas and joined the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan Sarah Hubbard and the Michigan Small Business Association Brian Calley on a panel moderated by Michigan Radio Zoe Clarke To discuss the growing Michigan Council on Higher Education recommendations.

Intention between higher education and the business community

According to Pink, co-chair of the council’s Higher Education Working Group, the council’s sector recommendations are deliberately designed to ensure alignment between higher education institutions and the business and workforce community.

“[It is] So that the student does not think about “once he graduates from college”, – said Pink. “When I’m in college, I already understand and connect with good companies with good paying jobs” … so it’s not something new at the end of college – they do it all the time.

Cavalhuna, who also co-chaired the Task Force on Higher Education, took this idea a step further, saying that alignment should begin with a PreK-12 system with clear pathways to postsecondary education.

“If you don’t see yourself in college, you should be able to get community college credit in your last four years of high school. Then, after getting that, the path to the advanced university should be clear,” Kavalhuna said. “Once you get that bachelor’s degree out of the way… you have businesses that will guarantee jobs. This is the intention that we can establish in the state.”

Kalley agreed with the key theme of the Michigan Growing Together Council report, creating “a system with more connections, a real pipeline” of well-prepared and well-connected students along their educational journey. This becomes even more critical as data shows the pipeline shrinks as students move through it.

“If we have 122,000 children, they are 9 years oldc Today’s students in the classroom and we say, eight years from now, how many of them will have a four-year degree or recognized credential? That number is actually about 20%,” said Calley. “If you pass, 85% will graduate from high school and about half of them will go to college in the first six months, and then how many will go to college within four years?”

Related: Check out the Chamber’s 2023 State of Education and Talent Report

Increasing financing of higher education

While developing early links between business and higher education institutions is a key element of the Higher Education Working Group’s recommendations, developing long-term solutions for funding is equally explored.

According to Hubbard, funding is “critically important” and higher education is “very underfunded at the state level.” However, he stressed that the lack of funding does not fall only on the state; higher education plays a role in securing funding.

“We really need to communicate the value proposition to our policymakers and explain to them that higher education funding should be such an important proposition,” he said. “We don’t always speak the same language as those who qualify for funding. This is a two-way conversation and we must return to it.”

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