Business Leaders summit to seek ways that colleges can boost talent pool in Michigan
Business Leaders for Michigan is holding a summit in Lansing on Monday to share strategies on how the state's higher education institutions can help economic development.
A roster of seasoned leaders from around the country in higher education, economics and business are on board to speak about how universities and local businesses can work together and troubleshoot the state's growing dearth of talent.
"It's our hope that attendees leave this conference with a true understanding of the importance of higher education when looking at Michigan's future," said Business Leaders CEO Doug Rothwell. "We can't ignore that we are facing a talent shortage of 1 million college grads by 2025."
Last year the Detroit-based business coalition said higher education was a primary driver in its "Michigan Turnaround Plan," an initiative that aims to improve the state's economy. Business Leaders has appealed to state legislators to increase funding of higher education. Its funding plan for university performance has made its way into the House, Senate and governor's appropriations bills.
University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and Domino's Pizza Inc. President and CEO Patrick Doyle co-chair the Business Leaders committee that focuses on strengthening the ties between business and higher education.
Doyle said the conference is about shaping opinions and raising the profile of the need for a change, so voters will listen. He has appealed to the state Legislature on behalf of Business Leaders.
"We spend more on a per-prisoner standpoint than most other states, but at the same time we're spending significantly less on higher education," Doyle said. "We think there are places we can go in the budget and cut spending to make room for greater investment in higher education, which will ultimately drive higher economic growth."
Doyle said that although unemployment is high in Michigan, talent is lacking, and that ultimately hurts jobs coming into the state. The conference will discuss how access to talent is a key factor in where companies base their operations.
"The days of people simply chasing lower wages are really behind us, and companies need to know they can access the talent they need," he said. "Growing that pool is critical to the long-term economic success of the state."
Coleman will be speaking on a panel discussing how research and innovation in universities can stimulate economic growth. She said universities have a lot of untapped potential to offer companies — expertise and intellectual property that just need the right business model to turn profitable.
"Rather than just making discoveries and leaving them in the lab or throwing them out, we have a much more intentional desire now to make sure our work's followed up on," she said. "We're doing everything we can to help with economic growth and keep the U.S. at the forefront of innovation."
Coleman said that since she began at UM in 2002, Michigan has fallen from a top 10 state to a bottom 10 state in terms of state funding. She said state allocations to higher education have decreased nearly $1 billion in the past decade.
The conference will be bringing in University of North Carolina President Thomas Ross and the chancellor of the North Dakota University System, William Goetz, to discuss how they helped grow the economy in their respective states.
Other speakers include Hunter Rawlings, president of the American Association of Universities; Dewayne Matthews, vice president of policy and strategy for the Indianapolis-based education think tank Lumina Foundation; William Weidman, executive vice president and CFO of Dow Chemical Co.; and Andre Dua, a senior partner specializing in educational practice for the New York-based consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
The conference will be from noon to 5 p.m. at the Lansing Center. Information is available at businessleadersformichigan.com.