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Advancing Talent and Workforce Development through University-State-City Partnerships: Webinar Summary

By Abigail Robbins, Program Associate, Economic Development, Community Engagement, & Governmental Affairs

NGA Talent Webinar Blog Graphic

On January 28, 2021, APLU, the National Governors Association, and the National League of Cities held the first of four webinars as part of the IEP Universities: Catalyzing Next Generation University-State-City Partnerships for Economic Opportunity Webinar Series. This webinar titled, Advancing Talent and Workforce Development through University-State-City Partnerships, focused on the talent facet of economic engagement. Wayne State University was the highlighted institution based on its extensive talent and workforce development initiatives and collaboration with regional and state partners. The web panelists included leaders from Wayne State University, Detroit’s workforce development agency, and the Michigan state government.

Amanda Winters, Program Director for Postsecondary Education at the National Governors Association moderated the web panel. The panelists included Ahmad Ezzeddine, Melanie D’Evelyn, Doug Ross, and Michelle Rafferty. Each panelist discussed their experience as part of University-State-City partnerships in pursuit of expanding economic opportunity. Below are summaries of each panelist’s contribution.

Doug Ross, Senior Advisor for Michigan Prosperity under Governor Whitmer of Michigan, highlighted the governor’s agenda regarding workforce development and economic opportunity. The governor’s agenda, which is heavily focused on increasing access to higher education and workforce development, emphasizes the importance of robust relationships with universities and cities to create opportunities and meet rigorous goals set by state officials. Ross also highlighted initiatives such as Detroit Drives Degrees which strives to increase completion rates and close achievement gaps across Michigan.

Michelle Rafferty, Chief Operating Officer of Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation (DESC), described the city of Detroit’s role in driving workforce and economic development strategies when partnering with universities and state entities. Rafferty emphasized the importance of incorporating different perspectives on city-wide workforce development boards to include educational institutions and stakeholders with state-wide influence. The Mayor’s Development Board has incorporated these different perspectives to reinvest in the K-12 systems as well as career and technical education centers. The board also raised resources and partners with the district to revitalize and ensure that the provided training aligned with the current needs of industry in the area. Rafferty also highlighted some of the other city-wide poverty reduction work Detroit at Work has through the labor force participation initiatives.

Ahmad Ezzeddine, Associate Vice President for Educational Outreach and International Programs at Wayne State University, a 2014 IEP designee and 2018 IEP Talent Award winner, emphasized universities as integral partners to the city and state economic and talent agendas. Ezzeddine highlighted initiatives and investments Wayne State University has made to support the city and state goals. These include alternative education programs from adult literacy (Harris Literacy Program) to degree and non-degree completion, transfer pathways, Lumina Talent Hub, Warrior Way Back, and the Detroit Regional Talent Compact.

Melanie D’Evelyn, Director of Detroit Drives Degrees at Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation brought the regional business perspective and explained why these partnerships are necessary. D’Evelyn identified the incentive local businesses have to engage in these partnerships explaining that future regional economic prosperity depends on the success and preparation of a competitive talent pool. D’Evelyn emphasized the importance of initiatives using collective impact models, such as the Detroit Drives Degrees. D’Evelyn depicted how organizations, such as regional chambers of commerce, can serve as an intermediary or “connective tissue” in linking university-state-city partnerships to bolster efforts in areas of workforce development and economic development. D’Evelyn also echoed Rafferty’s point on creating spaces where different institutional perspectives are shared to better strategize and align interests between university, state, and city entities.

While each panelist brought unique perspectives from their respective area, the need for continuation and expansion of university-state-city-led partnerships is crucial to advancing talent and workforce development.

Inspired by what you’ve read here? Learn more about how to get engaged at www.APLU.org/SeekIEP and read more articles like this at www.aplu.org/iepblog. View the recording of the session here (access code: d@.V5ma#). RSVP to the next three APLU-NGA-NLC Webinars here.

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