From left, Susan Lund, Joel D. Tauber, Carol Williams, Felix Ortiz, Nolan Finley (photo by Asa Mathat)
Joel D. Tauber
Editorial Page Editor and Columnist, The Detroit News
Founder, Chairman and Chief Product Officer, Viridis Learning Inc.
Joel D. Tauber
President, Tauber Enterprises LLC; Founder, Tauber Institute for Global Operations, University of Michigan
EVP, Dow Manufacturing & Engineering, Supply Chain, and Environmental, Health & Safety Operations, Dow Chemical
Partner and Director of Research, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI)
Companies have very specific ideas about what they want, and what they need, to survive and thrive in a global economy that grows more interconnected and interdependent every day. Who better to ask about who’s hiring, the jobs of tomorrow, and what skills will be necessary?
Read the full transcript below. (Transcript by Realtime Transcription.)
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Kirkpatrick: All right. So, hope you are enjoying it so far. We’re certainly enjoying bringing it to you. And our next segment is going to be looking at issues around U.S. competitiveness, jobs, which we’ve already heard about on just about every session, and that’s appropriate, because we see it as the top issue in a technologized economy that we’re not prepared for. So we’ve got a lot of talk about jobs, and people, and the growth of regional entrepreneurialism, how people are going to start more things, and what entrepreneurship means in the current economy.
So to start us off, Susan Lund, who is a partner and head of research for the McKinsey Global Institute, is going to lead a session on this critical question of jobs. So welcome, Susan, and thanks so much.
Lund: Thank you very much. We’re going to talk about where are the jobs. It’s a good question, and it’s a very tough question for the U.S.
When you look at the state of job creation in the United States, it’s been very slow in this recovery. Currently the U.S. has 1.9 million fewer jobs than we did at the start of the recession, and this is despite the fact that U.S. GDP is growing and recovering nicely. So this has given rise to the term, “jobless recovery.” So far it’s been 33 months since GDP returned to where it was prior to the recession, but we’re still 2 million jobs short, and at the current rate of job creation, it’s going to take another 11 months. So 44 months, almost four years, just to replace the jobs that were destroyed in the recession.
There are a lot of different reasons for this. One commonly cited reason for the slow rate of job creation is a skills mismatch, or simply the fact that the people without the jobs don’t have the skills or educational requirements for the jobs that are being created. And, indeed, when you look across the United States, people with a four‑year college degree or higher, jobs have grown. People with a high school degree or less, several million fewer jobs.
Another factor is the slow rate of new business formation or startups. And that’s part of what this conference is about. We calculate, at the McKinsey Global Institute, that had the rate of startups continued from 2007 to present, we’d have at least 1.8 million more jobs in the United States today than we do.
And then, finally, there’s an issue of mobility. Americans are not willing to move, not able to move as often as they were in the past, and this could be slowing down, getting people back into jobs.
So today we have a fantastic panel. I am very honored and pleased to be joined by four people who are going to talk about different elements of the jobs challenge and tell us where the jobs are in the future. We have Joel Tauber, president of Tauber Enterprises, and founder of the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan.
We have Carol Williams, from Dow Chemical, executive vice president for Supply Chain and Operations.
We have Felix Ortiz, the founder and president of Viridis Learning Inc., and also a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran.
And, finally, we have Nolan Finley, the editorial page editor of The Detroit News.
So I’m going to start with a question for all of the panelists just to briefly answer, and that is, in your view—you all sit in very different places in Michigan, and have different views on the economy—what do you think is the key to spurring jobs of the future? I will start with you, Joel.
Tauber: I come from 50 years in a basic-core industry, better known as a smoke‑stack industry, where I ran and owned a group of companies in steel and plastics in the more mundane parts of the world, and many, many employees. But things have changed. And my experiences have to be different, because the type of employees that we’re looking for and that we need are not the same as they were when I started 50 years ago.
So short answer, with that little prelude, is we have to change our education system. And if we’re seriously going to have employees that can support technology, we have to begin to teach differently. And later, I hope to give you a little bit about what’s happening with the Tauber Institute, but it has to be both at the management level and the worker level. And I think that’s the key to jobs for the future.
Lund: Okay. Carol?
Williams: Okay. To build on where he was—for Dow Chemical, you know Dow Chemical is a $55 billion company that is also headquartered in Michigan that is huge on the science and technology side. And one of the challenges we have is the estimates are that globally—we are a global company—there will be 18 million jobs that won’t be able to be filled because there won’t be the trained employees.
If you bring that down to the United States, it’s about 3 million. And so, how do we get people excited again about science and technology? And it doesn’t just mean computers. It also means all levels. And we do have to engage—there was a question that was put to Governor Snyder about the fact that we have to get people involved at all levels, including the families, that manufacturing is an exciting career, that you have great jobs, that they pay well, that the average pay is actually higher than the service sector job, and we have to get people engaged in that again.
Lund: Interesting. Felix?
Ortiz: Sure. Yes. Maybe I look at it from a different perspective. I think that one of the things is that the corporation should recognize credentials. And I think that education needs to be instructed in that manner. I don’t believe you should be focused on a four‑year degree when you can acquire the skill set through credentials that the employers can provide and be pipe‑lined into the work force.
I think the other issue is, how do you make the industry sexy again? And how do you market that to a new demographic which is the fast‑growing Hispanic population and other urban markets where they may not even understand what manufacturing is?
So I think those are some of the important problems that need to be solved, and hopefully we’re solving that. And that’s my perspective on where the jobs are.
Lund: Fantastic. And Nolan?
Finley: I will join everyone else in saying workforce development, particularly in Michigan. We are still in that disruptive transition period from a low‑skill, high‑wage manufacturing economy to an economy that’s built more on knowledge, and skills, and advanced manufacturing. And our workforce hasn’t kept pace. And I think we have to focus not just on getting people an education, but getting them an education and skills that are demanded by the new economy. In Michigan, you keep hearing the governor say there’s 70,000‑some jobs that are going unfilled because our workers don’t have the skills to fill them. And that’s everything from welders to computer analysts.
It’s a—and we’ve read a lot in recent days about the income gap and about the employment gap, and really it’s an education gap, as you mentioned in your opening.
Lund: Interesting. So let’s take it down a level. You’ve all talked about skills and education. The title of this session is “Where Are the Jobs?” So I’m going to start with you, Joel. We hear a lot about re-shoring of manufacturing jobs, and that some factories, some companies are shifting production back to the United States, and indeed, back to Michigan. Given your view of the manufacturing industry, what is the magnitude of this? Is this going to create a lot of jobs for the United States? And what can be done to actually accelerate that movement?
Tauber: Let me go back to where I was before. It is true that manufacturing is coming back. There’s a lot of good reason for that. We are still in the manufacturing business—small—and we’re bringing jobs back from China. So that is true. The issue is, how are we going to retain it? How are we going to retain our competitive edge so that we can continue to bring these jobs back to the United States?
I would like to spend a few seconds, if I could, on the Tauber Manufacturing Institute. I will try to make it brief. Twenty‑five years ago, I went to the University of Michigan as one of their advisory committee, and I said to them, much as people would say today, you don’t know how to teach for manufacturing. And what I learned—I had a JD, MBA, BBA—I was not prepared when I went into manufacturing. And, further, companies in industry were giving six‑month programs when you graduated from the university. I said, does that make any sense? If you are teaching, why would they need six months?
So as a result, we came up with the Tauber Institute for Global Operations. We are now in our 20th year, and it’s been very successful. We just celebrated last Thursday. The results have been tremendous. A thousand graduates. Industries getting what they want because they serve on our advisory board. It was successful.
But my point there and now is, what are you going to do for the future? That’s what matters. And the key to the Institute at the University of Michigan is the advisory board. I just want to touch on some of the people that are on it because I think it’s relevant: Amazon, Boeing, Cisco, Dell, Honeywell, Infosys, Intel, Office Max, UPS. And then the major companies: GM, Ford.
The point is, as I did 25 years ago, saying you are teaching wrong—and Michigan changed their curriculum, they went from case studies to action‑based learning, which was what our Institute did, and they adopted, of course, the whole business school, a major change.
Usually, you say, universities can’t change, they’re too big, they are tied in. They changed their methodology. These companies on this advisory board, I think, are going to push our educational institute into the same kinds of changes. And it’s beginning to happen. We just opened in November. We just opened the first factory connected with a university where we will be teaching these skills, advanced skills, to be able to accomplish what we need.
We are into data management. We’re into things like 3G manufacturing copiers. So we’re looking towards the future. The point is, it’s replicable. If others in industry or in education want to do the same thing, they can bring it on and prepare the people to do it. Because everyone agrees what has to happen. Of course, you know, it’s not happening. Doing is what’s important.
Lund: Interesting. So the private sector has a role to play in shaping the educational system. Carol, what extent do you see that in Dow?
I know that Dow is at the forefront, of course, of chemical manufacturing. The U.S. has a shale energy boom that has lowered the price of natural gas by two‑thirds, made the U.S. price of natural gas just a fraction of what you get in other countries. It is still more of a nationally and regionally priced commodity than globally priced. And this is creating new opportunities for production of chemicals and other energy‑intensive goods in the United States.
To what extent is Dow taking advantage of this? What do you think the future for those types of jobs are, both in Michigan and across the U.S.?
Williams: Sure. The shale gale, as it is often being called today, is truly a game changer for the United States. And that’s technology, where we combined horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, sometimes called fracking, which I don’t think helps people feel good about it.
But 30 percent of the natural gas that’s produced today already is done with hydraulic fracturing. And it’s really allowing us to utilize that effectively in manufacturing.
There are many industries where energy is the key part of the success. So whether you are steel, aluminum, chemical, hydrocarbons, there is a huge piece of that cost that is related to energy. And for about 20 years, many of those industries left the United States because it was more cost effective to do it in other places. And that’s beginning to change.
If you look at the investment estimates, they exceed $100 billion—100 billion—to go after some of this inexpensive power that’s now available for the manufacturing industry. And those projects are happening. Now, for us, many of the initial jobs happen on the U.S. Gulf Coast, because that’s where a lot of the gas is happening today. You have deepwater port. You can go to many places around the world.
But that doesn’t mean that’s where it will end. So where does Michigan come in? So if you make—I will use my industry, since I know it the best—you have a drilling job to get the gas. You make the hydrocarbon. You make a plastic. You may make a film. And then you have a cake mix pouch. And you then make—that whole chain creates about eight jobs for every one on the drilling side, as long as you use the natural gas for job creation in the United States.
So we see it happening. And those downstream jobs can happen anywhere. So you can have any of the film, the plastic plants, the cake mix activity, in many places around the United States, including Michigan.
Finley: But, Carol, that shale revolution isn’t inevitable. I mean, obviously, cheap, plentiful energy is one of the pillars of job creation in our country—
Williams: It is.
Finley: —and in the state, but it depends on a regulatory regime that keeps this process safe—
Finley: —and non‑polluting, but also allows it to go forward. And in a lot of states—in Michigan, ballots are circulating now to ban fracking before it really ever gets started in a big way here. Other states have put moratoriums on. Is this going to create sort of an uneven economy where the states that allow fracking are going to boom, and the states that don’t are going to be trapped down here? And what if the feds step in and say nobody gets to frack?
Williams: Obviously, we are already fracking 30 percent of the gas, so you would actually be taking away the activity.
Finley: That’s vertical fracking here, though, is it not?
Williams: No, horizontal.
Williams: Yeah. So we have—I think that we all need to understand that there are risks. There’s risks in any drilling. People go to where the water table is. But that’s at 10,000 feet versus you’re drilling two miles. And you do need to make sure that it’s done successfully.
But when I build a chemical plant, I have to build it safely and effectively in a design process to be able to make the seat cushions and the paints and everything that we use every day.
So we do have to make sure the regulations are effective. If a state decides not to do it, I think it will limit their economic growth.
Lund: Nolan, you pointed out that there has been fracking going on in Michigan, not combined with horizontal drilling, but fracking itself has been going on for 50 years.
Lund: I thought it was very interesting. It only recently became a popularized term.
So, Felix, let’s go back to this issue of how we get people into jobs. You have a startup to help train people at all different levels to be suitable for the jobs that are out there. We heard about 70,000 jobs in Michigan that can’t be filled. We heard Carol say there are going to be 3 million too few people with STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math skills.
So tell us about your startup and what role technology and online learning can play to get people into work.
Ortiz: Sure, yeah. We’re sort of a different play. I am sure you guys have heard of the MOOCs, Coursera, Udacity’s of the world. They play more at the higher education for the already educated demographic. We are focused more on the foundation at the middle school level. So what we’ve done is we’ve partnered with corporations like Comcast, trade associations, where in the corporation’s case, we partner with their university institute. We acquire their content and we disseminate that coursework through our platform, allowing us to capture data on the user and create matched‑fit algorithms, to match to the employer’s skill, sector, location. So that way the employer knows that they are getting a skilled worker for cable installation, if they are going into the cable industry, or for up-selling or whatever it may be.
In the case of the trade industry groups, they work in conjunction with the employers; like, for example, The Manufacturing Institute, or SME and others, to develop this content of manufacturing. So we disseminate that through our platform and they receive an industry credential which employers recognize. On our platform, typically the user will get a job within 120 to 180 days. That leads them towards a career that they can start around $40,000 and increase up to about 85,000.
We follow the stackable credential career pathway model, so they will start at the foundational skill level and stack on top of each other.
What’s interesting, though, is we have been approached by, like, community colleges and state institutions because a lot of the individuals that are getting a four‑year degree are still not being able to be placed within the workforce. So they see Viridis as a value‑add and a complement to bona fide and stack on top of a degree, to be more marketable within the workforce. So these are some of the ways that we are solving that through technology in today’s market.
Tauber: How many people are in your program?
Ortiz: So we have done pilot tests with about 2,500 users, and our numbers are around—we have a 93 percent completion rate, 70 percent placement, and a 65 percent retention. What’s good about it is that since we follow the stackable career pathway model, we want the user to continue to increase themselves up the career ladder. So, in a city like Detroit, it actually works well because we want the user to have the highest earning power and essentially bring back the middle class to the level it was in its heyday.
Tauber: Then you would scale your programs up to big numbers?
Ortiz: Yeah, we are going to scale to millions of users. I mean, next Tuesday we actually open it up to the public, so everybody here can log on and take a course.
Finley: Do you work with private companies? I mean, if a company were to come to Detroit and say, we need 200 mid‑skilled workers to do this manufacturing job, and we need them in three or four months, is that an assignment you could take on?
Ortiz: Yeah, I mean, that’s something we can do because we would work with, for example, the university or the educational component of the company, and we would import their curriculum into our platform. So we are able to gravitate that data.
So, for example, in the case—I go back to Comcast because I know Comcast is a partner of ours. So Comcast spends about 8‑ to $10,000 retraining the worker, after they actually had to recruit, so they pay a recruitment fee on top of that. And then if they churn that individual, they are then losing about 15- to $20,000. At Viridis, they can do it for only a couple hundred dollars, so that is a great impact on their bottom line for the corporation.
Williams: And I think his program has—first time hearing about it—because we work in each of the communities we are a part of with the local community colleges to get people through a two‑year training program on the chemistry side, so that they can come in and just be operators in our facility. So building that skilled credential, I think, is a great idea.
Lund: All right. Let me ask a provocative question, because you can go across the country and hear about the Tauber Institute that has a thousand graduates, and Felix’s company that has trained 2,500 so far, but the scale of the challenge, even in the state of Michigan, is on the order of tens of thousands, and across the United States, is on the order of millions.
So what needs to be done? What are the out‑of‑the‑box ideas to actually scale what’s happening, very successfully in small pockets, to address the magnitude of the challenge?
Finley: The challenge in Detroit, particularly, is—both Joel and Felix are talking about—training people with some skills, mid‑level workers or what have you. People who have held jobs, perhaps, in the past. I mean, we’re sitting here in Detroit, great university, my alma mater, but in the city, 12 percent of the adults have a college degree. The illiteracy rate has been pegged at up to 50 percent. You have tens of thousands of adults in the city who have not worked before. We could get 5,000 of these high‑tech jobs and drop them in Detroit tomorrow and it’s not going to have a major impact on Detroit unemployment because Detroiters aren’t prepared for those jobs.
So we have to start getting people job skills early on, job experience early on. High school programs that have work‑study programs like the one at Cristo Rey High School where kids work one day a week. Kids who have never seen anyone in their family work before. I think we’ve got to start a lot sooner than at this level in finding jobs that Detroiters can do to get them into the job market and started on the economic ladder. And that’s going to be a challenge.
Williams: And we fully agree. And science and technology really need to get them very young. So we have programs to go in regions where we are located, into the inner-city schools, and go into their science programs and to teach them that it’s fun. And we build mentor programs, and we even have sponsorship kinds of programs, so that you can get people to understand that this is something that they should be interested in and excited about. But it does take engagement of all of us in the education process.
Finley: And that’s great for the future, but what are we going to do about today’s unemployed, the unskilled workers, the low‑skilled workers, the people that have never held a job and they’re in their 20s and 30s, and older? What do we do about putting them to work in a city like Detroit?
Tauber: One answer is getting them through high school.
Tauber: Getting them through high school and putting in effort to get them through high school, because you can’t really start the training until you get them through high school.
Finley: Sure, but there’s 35 to 40 percent dropout rate in the city, so you have got to deal with these people. I think it is great to talk about bringing knowledge‑economy jobs and higher‑tech jobs into the city, and we have got to do that. But we also have to figure out if there are logistic jobs, jobs in urban agriculture, jobs in light manufacturing as they come back from overseas, given Detroit’s bargain rate on property, on space, and its bargain rate on labor.
We’ve got to start thinking about Detroit for some of the jobs that went to Mexico, went to China, went to other places in Asia, a long time ago, to get today’s unemployed working, while we worry about the skills and education of the younger folks.
Lund: I want to go back to the question of what are these middle‑skill jobs and how can they be trained? Can you take someone who has been unemployed for a very long time, maybe has never successfully had a career path in the workforce and actually teach them skills?
And, Felix, I’m warning you, I’m going to ask you. Tell us about your most basic credential. But I also want to let the audience know that we will be taking questions. There are microphones on either side of the room. Those who want to ask a question, start lining up, and we’ll start to interact with the audience on this.
So, Felix, not to put you on the spot, but tell us, what is the most basic level credential you could get through Viridis, and will it address this issue of, you know, lots of people in Detroit who have never had jobs or may be functionally illiterate?
Ortiz: Yes. So the answer is we focus on 10 industry verticals. I think the U.S. has about 16 or 17, and we will be expanding beyond that. But even before you get to the job placement, there is not only a mismatch in the skill, there is a mismatch on the actual competencies the individuals have for the employer.
So, for example, what we have instilled in our product is on the front-end, the user will take an assessment. This assessment will gauge their cultural competencies, their personalities, their behaviors, and other assessments and attributes so that we can create a customized, personalized career pathway for them, and a recommendation of courses that they can align. And real-time, based—there’s geography—based on the skills and the jobs that are available. We don’t want to educate people for jobs that aren’t available in real-time.
On the back-end, the employer is the one that comes into Michigan, or through the workforce investment board, or through other elements, and can fill out and say, I want 10 people with this type of skill, these type of attributes and personalities. And then our algorithms match these job seekers to the employers, having the best input and output for both.
So those are ways that we’re solving that. But I think that, you know, the first piece of that, the assessment, the attributes, and the competencies is oftentimes overlooked because people just want to get a skill. And you can have the top skill in whatever it may be. If I were an extrovert working in an introvert environment, then is that going to work for me, even though I have a 4.0 GPA? It may not. So—and my mom thinks I’m an introvert, but I don’t know.
And I will use myself as an example. When I came out of the military—I think another piece that hasn’t been talked about is the veteran issue. There’s a big issue within the MOS conversion. What that is, basically, is the Military Occupational Skill. And the fact that when I was going through, what they call, the ACAP, the Army Career Assistance Program, I was, you know, with other elements around that, and they told me I should go be a truck driver. Imagine me driving a truck.
Those are big issues that can be solved through technology, because no one has figured out yet how to solve this MOS conversion calculator. These great companies have tried, but have failed in doing that. I would say that the skills mismatch is one thing, but the attributes, the competencies, and then the—you know, for the veteran folks who are here, I am sure they can understand the MOS component to that as well.
Lund: All right. Well, we are glad that you didn’t take the advice to become a truck driver and, instead, are innovating new career pathways in the online world.
Finley: Although, truck drivers—a lot of openings for those jobs.
Finley: Companies are having trouble finding trained workers. And it brings you back to our focus in this state over the last 10, 20 years, has been getting everybody ready for college. And we were big advocates of that, too, making sure every kid went to college or was ready to go to college when they graduate.
And our schools have neglected vocational training. I think almost every high school has dropped vocational training or have very limited programs. And, yet, there are some very good jobs available out there in the construction trades and in other trades that you used to learn in high school.
We had in our office a factory owner who was desperate for welders. I mentioned welding earlier. And he was talking about, you know, they would hire them, they would train them, if somebody were willing to come in and learn. But if someone walked in the door as a skilled welder, he said, at his place, they could make 80 to 100 grand a year. I almost lost two writers going out the door!
And I think we forget about those traditional vocational jobs, and we certainly aren’t doing a good job in our high schools of preparing kids for these careers.
Williams: And I fully agree. If you are a specialty welder, and you can come down off of a rope, it’s $300,000 today. It’s amazing.
Tauber: The problem with vocational training is we, as a society, don’t recognize it and don’t give it the credit that it deserves, as it is in Europe. You make a lot of money, but until that changes, you are not going to get the people that want to get into it. I see that as a major problem.
One other point, if I might, with Nolan’s concern for the inner-city Detroit problem. It’s been a problem for a very long time. I dare say, and I never added it up, but we spent billions trying to solve that problem from the government. I’m talking over a long period of time, unsuccessfully.
I have become very involved with the Ethiopian community in Israel, and there it’s a little bit more manageable because there’s about 20,000 kids in the high school thing. And I have been developing a program with the government of Israel to try to solve that problem there that would apply to a Detroit.
So the point is, if we can do creative thinking and use technology, there are ways to approach it. But what we’ve done now for the last 20 or 25 years isn’t working. I’m not sure it’s going to work in Israel, because we’re just starting it now. But at least there’s hope, and there’s thinking, and cutting‑edge thinking that needs to address the problem.
Lund: Okay. Let’s open it up to some questions from the audience. If you could please tell us who you are and who you’re affiliated with.
Eric Williams: Yes. My name is Eric Williams. I am a professor at Wayne State University Law School and director of the program for Entrepreneurship and Business Law at Wayne.
I guess my question is to the general panel. You noted, well, for example, the Tauber Center has an approach that seems similar to those applied by Focus Hope and the Center for Advanced Technologies that was closely affiliated with the automobile companies and, also, the University of Michigan, and a number of other institutions where students came in and, essentially, learned how to be machinists, and then were trained as engineers, while at the same time working on some of the more advanced equipment. Their program was scaled back quite a lot because of recent cuts in federal funding.
So my question becomes—and they were actually targeting the type of population that you’re talking about, which is people not in possession of an advanced degree when they come into the program. So since there doesn’t seem to be, despite all of the talk about workforce development, there doesn’t seem to be a large willingness to support that financially from the government, my question is, do you think—and if the nonprofit sector can’t handle this, I guess my question is, do you think that the type of programs that are done by, for example, Focus Hope—and I am using that because that is one of the programs I am most familiar with, where you are taking people who don’t even have a GED, for example—do you think that that population can be served by these kinds of programs you’re describing in a way that is profitable so that it could be handled by the for‑profit sector?
Ortiz: I can jump in. That is actually the population we serve, part of the population we serve. We work with Goodwill. I don’t know if you know it, but Goodwill is probably the largest workforce training organization, I think, in the U.S. They have a $70 billion budget. I think 70 percent of their money is aligned to workforce training. Most people think of it as a retail store.
So, yeah, they can utilize technology and be complemented to their workforce training side of it. Sixty percent of those individuals that go through Goodwill—I think it’s about 4.2 million people—go through the workforce training. The other 40 percent take social service programs. But that’s the demographic that needs to be—that needs the most help and can utilize technology, and oftentimes technology is—the latest and greatest technologies, they’re the last ones to receive it.
So I believe the model of disseminating through community colleges, workforce and community‑based organizations is the model that suits our demographic the best, because we want them to be the first ones to utilize our workforce technology.
Williams: I think many companies have found that they have the need and it wasn’t being met, so they have reached out. You heard from Cisco earlier. We have, in our three largest locations, worked with a specific curriculum at Delta College, here in Michigan, Brazosport College in Texas, and one in Louisiana, where we set the curriculum with them because we weren’t getting our needs met. So I think you’ll find that around our country, many people have done that.
Lund: Interesting. We have a lot of people lined up. Let me suggest that we take one question from each side. So we will take two questions, and then let the panel respond, because we want to give everyone a chance to participate.
Thomasma: My name is Tim Thomasma, and I’ve retired after a career at the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Company and some other places. My major project is getting my kids into the workforce.
I have—some of my kids have some disabilities, and I know that you cited a statistic of about half, 50 percent, at the University of Detroit. A lot of those folks are that way because of dyslexia, attention deficit, some Asperger’s, maybe they have mental processing in sequential and spatial areas that only allow them to operate at a second grade math level. And what do you do with those folks? How do we include them in the workforce in this new economy? What are your thoughts?
Lund: Great question. Let’s take one from this side, and then we’ll answer both at the same time.
Douglas: Hi, I’m Alicia Douglas, and I’m with pip of Detroit. I wear several hats. One of the hats I am actually speaking on right now is through Michigan Corps, and we just got done having our first special entrepreneurial challenge.
One of the things we continue to hear is collaboration. The key thing, also, is corporate citizen engagement. We all have a role that we need to be playing, and I think that for so many years we haven’t been really focusing on really what we can do as individuals. And I can tell you, over in—and Joel you had said something about this with some work that you were doing in Israel—when you see—when people are given tools instead of providing them with fish, if we provide them with, actually, the tools to do it, it’s incredible, and the results that come out of that.
And I think that we are living, you know, in a society that wants to become engaged, but I don’t know if they really know and understand what their role is. And I think that—where are the jobs? I think that we all have the potential to be creating ideas. We also have the potential in volunteering in many different areas, as well as pro bono, and helping those areas. So I would really also like to focus on that corporate citizenship role and how we can better be engaging our corporate citizens.
Lund: Okay. Let’s take those two questions.
Finley: I think the public‑private partnerships are essential here. Carol was talking earlier about working with the community college. I think it is essential that companies don’t just sit there and whine and say, we can’t find qualified workers. I think you have to form partnerships with the universities, with the community colleges, with companies like Felix’s, and say, where are the workers we need and the skills we need?
Programs like yours or the community colleges are training people for—job programs that train people for jobs that exist, where you walk out the door at the end of that program, and you are not papering the town with resumes, but you are walking into a specific job—I think those are the most effective. And, you know, people trust that, you know, I’m going to put all this effort in, but there is a job at the end.
Tauber: I’d like to continue along that same vein. The key is collaboration, and I think a couple people have mentioned that. Everyone has to be a part of it.
At the Institute, we have companies. We have the students. We have the professors. We do engineerings, combined with LS and A, and with business, and with architecture. So everyone is working together.
And in terms of the financing, the first question, at the Institute it is all funded philanthropically. The reason is, because you are turning out a product that people really want. So the companies are getting something of value, so we don’t have to go to the government. If everyone gets together and does the job, no matter your company, it’s going to be less expensive to do it that way than having poor workers in your facility. So I think the collaboration will also attract the dollars.
Williams: Let me comment on disabilities. So I think all companies are trying to understand how to engage all kinds of disabilities, from blindness through to mental‑health kinds of issues. And one of the challenges in that space is that if the people don’t identify, which they often may not want to, that also creates a challenge. But I do think that companies are trying to open up and find opportunities to find win‑win matches on skill‑set capabilities.
And that might be an interesting thing for you to think about is the disability side on that skill‑matching, because they can’t come into every job, but there are jobs that could be built, where you could have different kinds of disabilities.
Ortiz: Our technology is actually 508 compliant so when users come in, they can actually—whether they are blind or whatever they may be, we can match them appropriately for life skills.
Lund: Right. And is there a role for technology just to diagnose people who may not realize that they have dyslexia or ADHD?
Ortiz: That’s how we were able to determine that, through a 508 Compliance that we had on our content that we integrate.
Lund: Okay, fantastic. Let’s take two more questions for the panel.
Mathur: My name is Ambika Mathur. I’m the dean of the Graduate School at Wayne State University. We focus a lot on the undergraduate and the community college level, too, but we have a whole workforce that is master’s and doctoral degree holders. We know only about 22 to 25 percent of doctoral students end up in academic jobs, which we are primarily training them for, but the majority, 75-, 80 percent, are not going to get those academic positions because of the way the finances and budget situation are going.
The National Institute of Health is actually recognizing that, as is the NSF, and creating these workforce development programs. And Wayne State is just one of 10 institutions across the country that was just awarded about a 1.8 million grant from the NIH.
But my question is, one of the things we want to do as part of this workforce development at this graduate level is to create partnerships with industry, with government, healthcare administration, so on, so that we have these highly‑skilled, highly-trained workers, to get these positions and actually move things forward. And then they can work with the community colleges, with the community organizations, to build more, you know, higher-skill jobs, more skilled jobs, however you want to put it.
So is there room in your organization that you see to create these partnerships? Have internships for trainees, and then they can go ahead and get jobs at your organizations?
Finley: Excuse me, you said one in five get jobs in the field that you are training them for. Do you have that conversation with them up front? Do you tell them there is only a 20 percent likelihood, after you spend all this time and money, that you are going to find the job you trained for?
Mathur: Yes, we do. That is the other reason we really want to make sure that we train them for jobs that are not going to be in the academic institutions. So we bring them in, understanding that they will not be getting the jobs that we have been trained to—
Finley: Yeah, because we spent a lot of time today talking about the manufacturing and those kind of skill‑level jobs, but there’s also a great deal—number of graduates who left this university in the spring that are still looking for work.
And I think we need the sort of partnership she’s talking about, where industry and universities cooperate, or at least have conversations about what the opportunities are, where the jobs are in the economy, so that we match expectations to the reality of the workplace.
Mathur: Absolutely. And that’s where we need to have the conversations with industry, with biotechnology, with all the other corporations that are represented here.
Finley: And with your students.
Mathur: Absolutely. That’s where we are starting, so that they are aware of what they are coming into.
Lund: This is an interesting idea that we haven’t talked about, which is the rule of information, the fact that we all probably know from our own experience that you go to college as a freshman, you pick some major based on whatever interests you, and when you are a senior, you maybe go to the career placement office, and you say, okay, what kind of jobs can I get with my degree?
What sort of rule is there to rethink that and create some sort of national online database, introduce it early on, even at the high school level, and certainly by the time you enter an educational institution? And this way, maybe try to get more graduates into the STEM fields that Carol was talking about.
In the United States—one quick statistic—15 percent of four‑year degree holders go into science, technology, engineering, and math. Let’s give some comparisons. In Mexico, our neighbors to the south, 27 percent of four‑year degree holders. If we go over to Asia, in China, 42 percent.
The U.S. is producing many, many, many fewer people with these technical science and engineering degrees that we need. What role is there for information to try to fill this gap and introduce the information about what is actually demanded by employers much earlier?
Finley: We also need to get the universities and community colleges aware of the demands of the economy. In Michigan and metro Detroit, we’ve had a nursing shortage here. And we have been talking about it for at least 20 years, yet we have not greatly expanded the openings in our nursing schools, a number of our nursing schools.
We are about to have a healthcare explosion in this country as more and more people are added to the insurance rolls and Medicaid rolls. We are not training enough healthcare workers now, and we know we are going to need them in a year or two.
So we need our educational system, our universities, to be more attentive to the needs of an economy and start tailoring programs and opening schools that would allow us to fill those jobs.
Williams: Yeah, and I think information technology is only one of those combinations. If you look at our school systems today, something like 15 percent of the teachers in America that teach science and math were trained in science and math. So you need people who enjoy it, who love it, who can impart that science is fun to the young people so that they want to go into these kinds of things, and set the hope for the future. And, you know, if this is just something you’re doing, then it’s not, you know—you are not going to bring that passion into what you need.
And so I think we have to start early and get people, because if you have reached ninth grade and you don’t have the right math, you are probably not going to make it. So you have to get it early.
Tauber: One anecdote on that is my granddaughter just graduated from University of Michigan, Teach for America. She went to inner-city Chicago, on the South Side. She’s teaching math and chemistry. I talked to her this week, and she said the kids love it. So the skilled teacher does make a huge difference.
Lund: Fantastic. Let’s take another question. We maybe have time for one or two more.
Sengupta: Okay, so I was wondering how do I get that $300,000 welder’s job or perhaps that truck driver?
Anyway, my name is Pradip Sengupta from IPS Technology Services. We are going like crazy. We do technology consulting, as well as staffing.
So I want to give some feedback, because we are observing there are two factors that are also behind the jobless recovery. Our clients—I mean the employers, they are actually asking for a very unique combination of skill sets. We do IT staffing, and if you know IT, they are looking for mainframe developers with Java, which is like 20 years of difference in terms of technology. And if they don’t get 100 percent match, they will not hire. So that is one thing that needs to be kind of, like, how do you address that?
The second thing is, perhaps due to the economic situation, that we are not tolerant as far as the learning curve is concerned. If the employers just want to have somebody coming in, it used to be like 90‑day grace period for learning curve. No longer. So the person has to be effective, productive, on day one. So these two are, I think, based on our observations.
It’s also affecting the unemployment rate, and people are not getting hired because the employers are waiting forever to get that unique talent with the best productivity. And that’s creating some problems. So I would like to have some comments regarding that. How do we address that?
Ortiz: We hire a lot of engineers, obviously. I think, to your point, at our company, we obviously want the best‑in‑class engineers, and we prefer to have full-stack, senior-level engineers. And for a start‑up, that’s very important. You can’t have, like, entry-level engineers. I mean, you can at a certain level, if they are aligned to a full-stack, senior engineer.
So first you have to hire the senior engineers, and then you can bring in the junior or the more entry‑level engineers and have them learn off the more highly-skilled engineer. It’s about speed to market, dissemination of product, and continuing iteration through sprint cycles when you are building tech.
For us, that’s the way we handle that as a tech company. Not only me, but my other buddies who are founders of other technology startups. That’s their thinking about that as well.
Kirkpatrick: I just want to throw in something that I was thinking of making as a comment later, but I would love to get the panel’s thoughts on it.
When you make your comments about the information available to college students, you are presuming a motivation that I don’t necessarily see. I am extremely concerned that a lot of American college students are fundamentally either lazy or unmotivated to a frightening degree, and they do not really recognize the gravity of their employment position.
I mean, I live in the middle of NYU, which is a great university in New York. The attitude of the students—a lot of them are very smart; they party way too much, and they don’t think enough! I think this is not a minor matter for the American educational context and job preparation. I just want to get a quick reaction to that thought.
Finley: We’re doomed.
Lund: Provocative question.
Williams: As a global company, I will tell you that we see people from all around the world. When we get somebody from China, I mean, the amount of time that they have studied their entire life, and they arrive and they’re, just, you know, so ready and passionate to go. And I would tell you in the U.S., we’re struggling to get that passion of the student to want to come in and make a difference. So I would agree. I think there is a delta. I think it’s a delta across many different locations, and I think it’s where America has been strong, and it’s definitely a worry.
Finley: I blame Big Bird.
Williams: Say more. (Silence).
Lund: All right. Other thoughts? American college students are just fundamentally lazy and uninterested. Maybe they don’t grasp the reality, or maybe they are planning on living, David, with their parents, so who needs a job.
Ortiz: It wasn’t too long ago I was a college student. I don’t think it’s that we liked to party a lot. We liked to enjoy life and have fun. I think it is a different mind‑set. I actually think it is an age factor or a generation factor. For example, like, my mentors are more old-school. They dress in suits—nothing against suits, but—
But the mind‑set they have is much more, like, conservative, business all the way, where we want to enjoy life and impact the world through different elements.
Finley: But you can’t.
Ortiz: But you can, because you can have fun while you are building what you love. And you can do that. And that creates successful outcomes, and it makes people happy. It’s been a proven fact. If you look at Zappos, if you look at Amazon, and all those other great companies, they drive themselves on making sure their workforce is happy and they throw a lot of parties for their engineers and their workforce. So that’s a very important piece of the pie for them.
Lund: All right. Well, on that thought.
Doyle: One more question over here?
Lund: Well, we are out of time, but David is the master of the show.
Doyle: I can talk for 20 minutes, but I will keep it to two‑and‑a‑half. My name is Orlando Doyle. I am the founder of Impact Seminars for Youth. I am elated to hear what all five panelists have said because we have a methodology that addresses that, namely, we have a means to inspire every child in middle school—well, the whole K‑12 system. And each one of you panelists will be hearing from me. Thank you very much. This has been a tremendous little session.
Lund: Okay. Thank you to the panel.