Report: COVID-19 Puts Already-leaky Talent Pipeline at Greater Risk

The Detroit Regional Chamber today revealed its third annual report on education and its impacts on Michigan businesses at The Beacon in downtown Detroit.
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The Detroit Regional Chamber has revealed its third annual report on education and its impacts on Michigan business. // Stock Photo
The Detroit Regional Chamber has revealed its third annual report on education and its impacts on Michigan business. // Stock Photo

The Detroit Regional Chamber today revealed its third annual report on education and its impacts on Michigan businesses at The Beacon in downtown Detroit.

The report — “State of Talent: Helping Business Plan for the Future” — shows how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the region’s education systems and puts a strain on businesses as they try to hire and retain employees.

“Looking over the longer term, the trajectory of postsecondary attainment for traditional-aged students and adult learners does not bode well for resolving talent challenges employers face,” the report states. “It also suggests that long-standing inequities in educational attainment based on race and income are likely to continue.”

According to the report:

  • The high school graduation rate in the Detroit region is 85 percent, 72 percent in the city of Detroit.
  • 34 percent of high school graduates in Michigan do not enroll in college, 53 percent in Detroit.
  • 45 percent of those who enroll in college do not complete their degree in six years, 74 percent in Detroit.
  • 31 percent of those who enroll in two-year institutions graduated within six years.
  • Community colleges lost 8.9 percent of enrollments from 2019 to 2020 due to COVID-19.
  • 39 percent of adults over the age of 24 who enrolled in college dropped out.

“As a representative of the private sector and the chair of the Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Talent Council, I can say that’s reason for concern and action among all of us,” says Peter Quigley, CEO of Kelly Services in Troy. “Michigan students, families, communities, our business environment, and economy at large depend on a strong and prepared workforce now and into the future. The solutions to our problems won’t be simple, but we must come together to give them the attention they deserve.”

Despite some minor progress in overall retention and graduation, the report states, the pre-pandemic decline in postsecondary enrollment continues while student preparedness is suffering, and adult degree completion is dropping. While the true impact will not be known until more data becomes available, “there is no question that the pandemic has significantly interrupted educational advancement and upward mobility for students and families,” according to the report.

The data in the report, according to its executive summary, “illustrates a harsh reality: The long-term COVID-19 impact on education threatens an already leaky talent pipeline where large numbers of students do not enroll in postsecondary education while far too many of those that do, fail to graduate or earn a credential after six years. If trends accelerated or created by the pandemic continue, desired attainment and equity outcomes are at risk and will create increased workforce challenges across all industries.”

Now, according to the chamber, is the time for increased collaboration across all sectors —education, business, government, philanthropy, and community organizations. As more is learned about the pandemic’s long-term impact, doubling down on the necessary steps to achieve the goal of 60 percent postsecondary attainment and reducing the racial equity gap by half by 2030 has never been more urgent.

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