Six things Michigan could do to build better-paying jobs

6-thingsWhat’s on our Christmas list? Six things experts say would help turn around Michigan’s dismal jobs forecast.

Improve early reading

Reading proficiency in early grades has a huge impact on academic success. Invest in intensive intervention as needed in schools, and encourage parents to read to their children.

Decrease college dropouts

Michigan is above average at getting kids into college, but is below average at keeping them there. Offer tax incentives to keep students in school, and mandate intensive counseling for at-risk students at public universities.

Fix the roads

Michigan’s roads and bridges are key to attracting business, and they’re badly in need of repair. Investing in infrastructure may be boring, but it’s vital.

Become a diploma magnet

Michigan has a net loss of college grads, with more moving out than moving in. Michigan could offer student loan forgiveness for Michigan college grads who stay here, and tax incentives to lure college grads from other states.

Push post-high school training

Just a little education past high school – whether a training certificate program or an associate’s degree – can make a huge difference in pay. More money for community colleges, and more coordination between businesses and training programs.

Match degrees to jobs

Michigan universities produce more teachers, lawyers and journalists than are needed, and not enough grads trained in computer technology and personal finance. Universities need to beef up career counseling early in students’ college years to raise the odds they can find work after they graduate.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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William C. Plumpe
Thu, 12/19/2013 - 8:33am
I agree 100% especially with the suggestions in regards to education particularly the increase in teaching reading to adults. At one time almost 50% of the residents of Detroit 16 years and older had a reading proficiency of 3rd grade or less. That means they probably can't read the average daily newspaper and certainly can't read what I'm writing. And you wonder why they can only get minimum wage jobs? There should be a continuing and concerted effort by the City of Detroit, State of Michigan and the Federal government to encourage and promote literacy training at all age levels all the time.. And it should start yesterday. Enough said.
Donna Sickels
Thu, 12/19/2013 - 10:08am
Michigan needs job training for people who have lost their jobs because of cut backs, layoffs,unemployment only lasts so long and does nothing to get you a job. but some kind of training or education would help.Maybe Michigan already has this, but I have heard nothing about any programs of this sort. We are so concerned about early education, but nothing about adult education. It would be a start.
Chip Bliem
Thu, 12/19/2013 - 10:22am
All K through 12 education, including the arts and music, should be improved. When children get a more well rounded education, the easier it is for them to handle the challanges they will face as adults. We have to realize that our society is going to spend the money on either schools or prisons. My vote is education.
Mike R
Thu, 12/19/2013 - 10:38am
I also agree, specifically with regard to lawyers. Full disclosure: I have been one for more than thirty years, but I assure you this is not a case of "I made it in, so close the door". When I graduated law school in 1980, there were approximately 20,000 members of the State Bar of Michigan. There are now more than 33,000 as of 2012, ranking Michigan 19th in the nation in number of lawyers per capita (34.09 per 10,000 residents). In 1980 there were five law schools in here: University of Michigan, Wayne State University, University of Detroit, Detroit College of Law, and the relatively new Thomas Cooley Law School. While there are, technically, still the same number of schools (Detroit College of Law moved to East Lansing and became part of Michigan State University several years ago), some of those institutions have opened multiple branches, and all but U of M have been aggressively recruiting enrollees for decades. While I don't have statistics to support this, my sense is that there are very few lawyers moving into Michigan, and most of those come from national law schools with top jobs at the very highest levels of government, big corporations, and large law firms. I believe the overwhelming majority of lawyers in this state are products of Michigan law schools, with most of those coming from the schools offering the least expensive, most convenient, and arguably least rigorous path to a juris doctorate. And every study shows that average attorney incomes (apart from the highest level positions) in Michigan have remained stagnant or declined in real dollars over the past twenty or so years, a sure indicator that there is too much competition. I don't mean to start a debate about the quality of law school graduates or the relative merits of lawyers; my point is that there is evidence (no pun intended) that Mr. French is correct in stating that Michigan Universities produce more lawyers than are needed, and that becoming a lawyer is not necessarily the path to financial success that it once was. Career counseling is needed to encourage bright, articulate, and logical thinkers to explore other options, but perhaps the bigger need is in finding a way of disincentivizing universities and independent law schools from aggressive marketing and excessive lawyer production.
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 7:34am
I have read several articles about applications to law schools being down in general all across the country (some by substantial margins) and that a reduction in the number of law schools (I think it is around 300 in the US) could happen.
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 8:29am
I am always curious where these kind of articles come from and what kind of thinking went into them. Are these simply someone repeating political position one-liners to promote that point of view or are they, in this case, actual barriers to more jobs? Improve reading early; are employers’ really not finding knowledge and skilled applicants aren’t able to read at a level necessary for the job or is this notion put forward to ask for more of other people’s money to be spent by educators? Decrease college dropouts; since we have a net exodus of college graduates does this mean employers aren’t able to find the necessary college graduates for existing job openings or is it simply a political ploy to justify spending more tax dollars on education? Fix the roads; are there actual roads and bridges closed for disrepair that are preventing employers from hiring or expanding their businesses, or is this simply an effort to ask for more of other people’s money to spend? I heard the pitch for another Detroit bridge, but that wasn’t because of disrepair. I could understand the idea of widening I-94 to three lanes all way to Indiana, but that isn’t because of disrepair. I wonder if Mr. French has a list of the bridges and roads in such disrepair that they are preventing employers hiring. Become a diploma magnet; I wonder if Mr. French ever asked those with new degrees why they are moving out of the state, was it because they were going for a job or was it because they needed more debt for their education?
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 8:31am
Maybe it’s time for Mr. French, Bridge, and others to end being stuck in rerunning the old ideas of barriers/solutions that haven’t changed anything and try? Maybe it’s time to find out if there are different barriers/solutions, maybe it time they started talking to new people/different people, looking to break old habits and ask new questions. I wonder Mr. French, Bridge staff, and those they talk to have ever had to break out of their old ways of thinking and looked at things in a totally ‘foreign’ way from how they have thought in the past. Have they ever thought that it is in middle school that career exposure should start, have they ever thought it is time to talk to the struggling entrepreneur, talk to the growing businesses (small/medium), talk to the big companies that are creating jobs elsewhere and ask them why and how, making sure not to talk about the retread ideas in this article. Have they ever considered asking their readers? Have they ever asked why so many go to school to be a teacher, lawyer, or journalist? Have they ever asked when did those that became engineers, computer program writers, entrepreneurs, problem solvers (that is what jobs are created to do) start thinking about doing that? I wonder if Mr. French/Bridge want to learn what it takes to create jobs in Michigan, whether they want an open discussion looking for new ways we might create new jobs, whether they are even be open to new ideas and change, whether they would consider any solutions that doesn’t include spending more and more of other people’s money. I wonder if Mr. French/Bridge are so intertwined with the current political ideas that they can’t break those old thinking habits and consider new questions, new/different/off the wall ideas like those employers that are creating the news do.
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 12:01pm
A perfect illustration of the gulf between the statist academic left and the libertarian private sector right. Mr French, sees the world through lenses of formulaic programs and credentials with a certainty of results and the right through eyes of individual incentives and initiative with a huge modesty of expectations. At least Mr. French saved us from the usual trove of ending RTW, the reactionary right's control of state government and legalizing gay marriage as solutions!
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 8:33pm
Matt, The gulf you talk about is the greatest barrier to actually changing Michigan and getting the jobs we need and want. That gulf is individual greed for political power. They use current issues as a means to that power and have no real commitment to achieving the desired impact/change. You mention ‘gay marriage’ as an example of the divide. That is a good example of how political greed turn a viable issue into a political divide simply by making ‘gay marriage’ the rallying cry. If the people were truly interest in change they would have started by looking at what were their issues of concern and asking if there were others that had the same concerns. If the concerns were such things as legal access during an emergency, shared legal status and related benefits, end of life issues, property issue then they would have asked the public how best to address this (i.e. ‘civil union’ which include each solution). But it became clear that the issues of couple such as those who had been previously been married or those who had no plans for children or those (such as who were in the later years of life) who could gain socially and financial from being legally joined were excluded from the political campaigns on the ‘gay marriage’ issue and the means for legal resolution it became apparent that it was a political power play and not for the betterment of society. The political divide was for those who created the movement and not for the benefit of society. The divide is artificially created and widened for the benefit of the extremes. Until those who really want a solution are willing to focus on the problem and ignore the politics, to work with those who have a different view, to discard the old worn answers there will be no effective solutions.
Mike R
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 2:14pm
Duane's ideas are interesting and thought-provoking but are lost in his sarcastic ad hominem attack on Mr. French. Matt sees an anti-right conspiracy in everything, even where there's not a hint of one in the article. How about we elevate the tone of the discussion, gentlemen?
John Q. Public
Sat, 12/28/2013 - 8:29pm
I didn't lose the thought-provoking nature of Duane's ideas just because they were cloaked in sarcasm. Neither did you; else how would you have noted it in your post?
Fri, 12/20/2013 - 8:39pm
Mike, I understand and appreciate your disappointment with ill attempts at sarcasm. But, have you ever heard about how to get the attention of a ‘Missouri Mule’? I feel the people at Bridge have created a great platform that can open Michigan up to new ideas and new approaches to the issues/problems we face. They seem to be very capable people. They seem to have lead shelter lives that have prevented them from experiences that others have had that forced others to listen to competing ideas, to commit to change, to learn new ways to address problems, to open themselves up to the possibility of not having THE answers, to letting go of precious perceptions and replacing them with things they have never considered. If you have gone through that or you have had to help others go through it you learn that you have get the parties engaged so they can start looking at the real problems, the real potential outcomes/consequence, and this is before they can contribute to the effective solutions. The challenge is getting their attention before you will ever be able to get them to start listening and working with differing ideas. To get people engaged you have to try different means, from the simple asking and listening (for an answer) progressing to the use the ‘Missouri Mule’ approach. When that even fails you have to decide whether they are worth the effort or the problems are so important that you will continue to nudge them hoping that one day you can find the trigger that will help them realize if they really want to solve persistent problems, they will let go of the old answers and old approaches and start opening up to new ideas and engaging those who they have disagreed with, working outside their comfort zone to create effective solutions. If we can ever get them participating even with all their resistance we have hope for changing Michigan. I apologize for the any perceived sarcasm and will strive to avoid those kinds of comments in the future.