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Posted on Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 2:03 p.m.

Educating Michigan's workforce would boost state's distressed cities

By Nathan Bomey

Business leaders, workforce experts, political officials and university leaders came together at the Southeast Michigan Regional Stakeholders Event at Washtenaw Community College to discuss various issues confronting the state.

Convincing Michigan workers to attend college is one of the best ways to boost the state's distressed major cities, officials said this morning.

Persuading young people to stay in Michigan is critical to boosting the state's economy, said David Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, a $100 million philanthropic economic development organization.

"Without them, there's no tax base, no charitable contributions, no social service and no arts and culture," Egner said. "We simply will shrivel."

Some 2/3rds of talented young people nationwide are attracted to major cities, he said. But Michigan's major cities are performing poorly in that talent competition.

Detroit, for example, has just 15,000 residents under age 35 with a college degree, Egner said.

Creating an "entrepreneurial ecosystem," he said, is a critical step toward revitalizing Michigan's population centers and attracting youth.

"Seventy years ago, this was Silicon Valley," he said of Michigan. "We believe that spirit is still here. It's just become a dormant gene."

Andy Levin, the state's chief workforce officer, said that generating an educated workforce is imperative to reversing Michigan's economic decline.

But he argued that educating young people is not the only way to build an educated economy. He said that people who have already graduated from high school will make up 2/3rds of Michigan's workforce by 2025.

Levin said programs like the state's No Worker Left Behind initiative, which provides college funding assistance to laid-off workers, are critical to building an educated workforce.

"For a couple generations of people, a lot of them never had any reason to go to college because when they left high school they get get a great job," Levin said. "The only way we are going to fundamentally increase our level of education is including our workforce in that education" movement.

Early signs from the No Worker Left Behind program are encouraging, he said. Recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that from 2007 to 2008 the number of Michigan workers with some college education increased by 120,000, Levin said.

Still, convincing those educated workers to stay in Michigan is challenging.

Some 46 percent of Michigan's public university graduates leave the state within eight months of graduating, according to a 2007 study, said Dan Little, chancellor of the University of Michigan at Dearborn.

One grassroots way to keep talented students in Michigan is internships, Little said. He pointed to the early success of, a new Web site created in partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber that aims to connect Michigan students with Michigan companies.

"Internships are a great tool for retaining young people in the region," Little said.

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter.


John Galt

Sat, Jan 30, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

Educate them, yes. But realize they are simply going to move to a better place with a future.

The Grinch

Sat, Jan 30, 2010 : 12:23 p.m.

Happy Fun Ball: I'm sure you won't mind sharing with us where you find these numbers you so baldly assert as fact?

Basic Bob

Sat, Jan 30, 2010 : 8:46 a.m.

Why do half of the college graduates leave the state? Because they can, and because they need a job. This state will be more successful when they encourage people who already got the education to stay, or to move here. An engineer in Michigan with a degree is likely to lose a job to someone who claims to be an engineer, with no formal education, and weak language skills. The employer possibly saves some money on wages, only to be lost in rework.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Sat, Jan 30, 2010 : 7:50 a.m.

'BIG EDUCATION' (the MEA, State Colleges, and their promoters) really need to be quiet about "investment" in education in Michigan. Each and every 'classroom' in every school building in the entire state earns about $250,000 - $350,000 per year to teach kids the basics. That is enough money to teach 25-30 kids for what amounts to 5 hours of class time over 9 months. If Michigan High school reading scores' would rank at the top of the Country, if MI students would score well above average on SAT's and ACT's, if Detroit Public schools would graduate more then 20-30% of their students - I might consider "investing" into the current system. At some point, you fire the quarterback and the coach - we have reached that point in Michigan Education. Our students need to perform - Every 3rd grader who doesn't read at a 3rd grade level should go to summer school - every 6th grader who does not read at a 6th grade level should go to summer school - and so on and so on. NO Michigan public schools student should be allowed to leave high school if they are not reading at a 12th Grade level. And I don't want to see grade inflation or lowering the standards either.. Teachers are paid an annual salary - now they can earn it. Why would ANYONE invest more money into the current system?


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 8 p.m.

Anyone serious about putting Detroit back to work would need to: - Eliminate the minimum wage - Eliminate the proprietary school licensing requirements to those who would like to pass on a tradition to the general public - Eliminate the practice of kickbacks to Michigan Works! personnel And since none of the above will never occur, we can keep blasting millions more of training dollars over Detroit and let it rain down like so much confetti. With 2/3's of Michigan kids leaving schools as functional illiterates, it's no wonder the NO WORKER LEFT BEHIND has helped perhaps at most only 5% of the unemployed. College is simply beyond the reach of Detroit's youth. When the State still spends millions of dollars training people, for example, to become truck drivers (a skill that turns stale in short time), at the same time thousands of truck drivers are being laid off, something is out of whack and these limited resources are being wasted and should have been directed at areas of practical employment.