Preparing students for 21st Century careers Developing talent pipeline is key to regional success

When we surveyed Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce members about the leading concerns facing their business, there was one issue that stood out above all others: talent. To successfully compete in the global economy, our region must develop talent that is educated and trained to handle the demand of skilled and technical jobs that is increasing in the knowledge-based economy.

The only way to ensure a steady pipeline of qualified talent is to develop the minds and skills of our own children. That requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, involving schools, parents and especially the business community.

The Chamber has identified education as one of our leading priorities. We have been playing a leading role in connecting our members to key initiatives that are making a significant impact on our region’s progress and ability to develop talent for the next generation.

The Chamber is part of a major private sector led initiative known as Teach. Talent. Thrive (T3). The mission of T3 is to strengthen our community’s commitment to lifelong learning through the growth of STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, arts and math. A more in-depth understanding of STEAM subjects will give our students the tools to integrate and apply knowledge that will create solutions for real-world problems.

Partnerships between education and the private sector are taking root in our region. The Ingham Intermediate School District (Ingham ISD) and Eaton County’s Regional Education Service Agency (Eaton RESA) have engaged with the business community to better understand regional employment needs and to place students in fields that align with their career pathways, including culinary arts, health care, manufacturing, insurance, communications and agri-sciences. The Chamber was proud to host Ingham ISD’s Fast and Furious Food Truck on a recent Friday in downtown Lansing. The students made $800, booked the truck for several other summer visits and gained valuable business skills in the process.

The private sector has made a strong effort in recent years to partner with K-12 and Intermediate School Districts. High school students are being exposed to careers in the insurance industry through partnerships between Farm Bureau Insurance and Eaton RESA. A similar partnership was created two years ago between insurance company AF Group and the Ingham ISD. The Bekum America Corporation in Williamston, Mich. has a long-established apprentice program to promote advanced manufacturing. Sparrow Health System engages with the Ingham ISD on the Capital Area Healthcare Education Partnership. Michigan State University Federal Credit Union and the Jackson National Life Insurance Company have also partnered with MSU to prepare students for careers in financial services, technology and insurance.

As important as these collaborations and others will be in positioning our students and our region for future success, we also need to work together to encourage our leaders at the state level to properly address funding for schools. The Chamber has joined others to advance the role that career and technical training must play in fulfilling tens of thousands of professional trades jobs that are needed throughout Michigan.

We are making progress; Michigan now ranks 19th in the nation in the number of working people with a bachelor’s degree and 8th in the nation in number of college graduates with STEAM degrees. There’s still work to be done, as our goal should be to top the rest of the nation in all categories.

The stakes are extraordinarily high. The future quality of life in our region depends on our collective ability to develop, attract and retain world-class talent for 21st century jobs. The collaborative approach we are utilizing to address our talent-needs is unmistakable evidence that we have the team — and community — to get the job done.

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