Editorial

Current education policy creates another generation unfit for jobs

March 22, 2013
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Many area economic development professionals this past week gave a good deal of their time to be present for Gov. Rick Snyder’s “economic summit” in Detroit, several days of which were spent parsing whether the estimated 100,000 job openings in Michigan are the result of a “mismatch” predicated on a “skills gap” between job seekers and job qualifications, or whether the economic data showing a vast majority of corporate America is sitting on “unprecedented levels of cash” and is unwilling to hire.

What matters most is that Snyder (and politicians everywhere) is attempting to set long-term public policy, believing that the government can solve the problems of business and force colleges and universities deplete their dwindling state revenues to pump up student levels and programs the politicians believe are necessary to fill the “skills gap.”

It is especially embarrassing — and inexplicable — to see Snyder, especially given his business background, walk this state into such an abyss.

First: Business Leaders for Michigan President and CEO Doug Rothwell told the Business Journal that “skills shortages are common when economies come out of recessions … but in the future Michigan will face a greater challenge in producing enough college and university educated talent.” (See the story on page 11). Rothwell is quick to point out the BLM study concludes it is “difficult to forecast future job openings because of a volatile economy and rapidly changing job needs.” Rothwell also makes the point of making college more affordable, even as Snyder maintains some of the state’s historically largest financial withdrawals from higher education.

Second: The Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan worked collaboratively to research this imagined skills gap based on review of each college’s and university’s graduates in “critical skills” fields, comparing it to the national averages from each state. In fact, Michigan achieved top rank, providing 20,921 critical degree awards and rank for 21.04 percent of degrees awarded per 100,000 residents. The report showed a 102 percent increase in health professions graduates alone. The report is titled “Michigan public university graduate supply moving to meet market demand” and is available at its website.

Third: Business Leaders for Michigan and Michigan Future CEO Lou Glazer have compiled extensive research that shows companies move to regions showing the greatest population of highly educated residents.

But the bottom line is that no one knows — especially not politicians — what skill sets will be needed next. Such is often the theme of columnist Thomas Friedman, who cites “the curiosity quotient” as being more important than IQ in a “world guaranteed to change in unpredictable ways” and the continuing suddenness of such change as has been witnessed for more than 10 years.

Governments stubbornly pushing policy that has no basis in the realities of the business world further condemn this state to another generation unfit for 100,000 jobs.

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