Editorial

Improve Michigan’s education outcomes and systems

December 19, 2014
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Year-end statistical analysis and 2015 projections certainly provide good news for merrymaking, but it may be short-lived rather than a “new era” of prosperity.

Gov. Rick Snyder was quick to herald the November employment report late last week, showing Michigan’s unemployment rate at 6.7 percent, the lowest in the state since 2006. More than a half-dozen outlooks show continued economic growth and in a wide variety of business types.

The Achilles heel is the lack of a skilled and educated work force. There are not enough people to take the jobs being created. Gov. Snyder must address education funding and standards very early in 2015, including the identified risks and problems within the charter school system.

The Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs told more than 400 West Michigan Economic Outlook attendees: “We are facing a number of demographic changes. We are facing retirements, we are facing the fact that a lot of younger people are not looking at skilled trades at all, and we are facing that we are losing labor participation. As the economy continues to get better, if we don’t pay, people will go to the next company for their better-paying job, and you can’t blame them. There has to be a balance between labor costs and continuing to hire new people.”

Business Leaders for Michigan has elevated education issues as a top concern, now that the Michigan economy is improving. BLM’s recently compiled Competitiveness Report notes:

  • Absolute levels for per capita personal income and per capita GDP remain below average
  • Michigan’s “production” of technical degrees and certificates is 6 percent lower than top 10 states, and production of all degrees and certificates is 9 percent lower.
  • Just 20 percent of all Michigan high school students are career and college ready, 35 percent below top 10 states, and the percentage of Michigan population with an associate’s degree or above is 11 percent lower than top 10 states.

The report states that if Michigan were a top 10 state, per person income would be $12,000 more, with $16,000 more GDP per person.

Michigan leaders must act with all seriousness and intent to improve the education outcomes and systems in this state. Business owners are now paying for what the state has not: skilled trades and on-the-job technical and advanced skills education to remain competitive in a world market.

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