To increase Michigan’s brain gain, engage talent at all levels
By all accounts, there is not a more exciting time to be in Michigan and in the energy industry. We’re on the cusp of an innovation economy, where technology makes it easier and more affordable to leave the planet better than we found it through renewable energy.
We also face a challenge. It is no secret Southeast Michigan, like so many other areas of the state, has a talent problem. Through 2024, Michigan will have more than 811,000 job openings. The greatest demand will be in increasingly high-skill, high-tech fields such as advanced manufacturing, health care, professional services and information technology.
As president and CEO of the state’s largest energy provider, I talk to a lot of business owners. What I hear from all different-size companies is that access to qualified talent is limiting their ability to grow. Michigan needs talent across the spectrum — from PhDs and neuroscientists to people who can work the line, learn the business and help it grow.
Developing and retaining our homegrown talent requires a comprehensive plan complete with wraparound services that address the full talent spectrum — from pre-kindergarten to the growing adult-student population. Consumers Energy is pleased to partner with the Detroit Regional Chamber on its leadership in this endeavor. Through its education programs and advocacy work, the Chamber leads a robust strategy focused on increasing access to postsecondary institutions, ensuring success of all students, and retaining the talent of the region.
The Chamber’s goal to increase the number of adults in our region with a postsecondary degree or credential to 60 percent by 2030 is shared by Consumers Energy. Currently, the region sits at 43 percent, much lower than our peers. Our success in addressing this number is vital to our future both as a company and as a state that can attract global companies and the best minds the world over.
Programs like the Detroit Promise, which ensures a tuition-free path to college for all graduates of Detroit high schools, are critical to building up our young people. Equally important is the support students get once they are in college. The Chamber leads a campus coach program working with trained professionals in community colleges across the region that ensure students’ needs are met through graduation. This guarantees a steady pool of highly qualified job candidates.
Particularly important to Consumers Energy is the Chamber’s work with Wayne State University and others to reconnect individuals with some college but no degree with a viable path to completion. Additionally, in October 2017, we worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to launch the Michigan Talent Pipeline Management Academy to help Michigan businesses enhance their talent sources and hire better skilled workers to meet critical short and long-term employment needs.
These programs lay the groundwork for developing and retaining talent across our state. For example, we have hired 83 electric lineworkers from one of our community college programs and have had 98 percent retention of those employees. Once here, programs like Leadership Detroit and the newly launched LetsDetroit.com provide the necessary connections individuals need to feel connected to the region — and fulfilled enough in their career to stay.
Additionally, the Marshall Plan is a great resource to build those connections between business leaders and educators to help ensure students are prepared for careers that will move the region and state forward.
I’m encouraged by the Chamber’s leadership as it considers a meaningful role in the state’s talent pipeline management strategy. Developing our future talent cannot be beholden to one group or organization. It will take all of us working together. After all, when Michigan wins, we all win.
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