LANSING — Michigan’s public universities and their students are reacting quickly to changing job markets, with universities graduating an increasing percentage of students in high-paying “critical skills” fields including medicine, engineering, mathematics, technology, and other sciences, and a dramatic reduction in teaching degrees issued.
While some are suggesting there is a “talent gap” between what employers are demanding and what universities graduating, the data shows an alignment in university graduates that suggests any gap may be due to factors other than university degrees earned by students.
Data compiled by Business Leaders for Michigan shows our state’s public universities are among the nation’s leaders in awarding critical skills degrees. The chart below shows the top 10 states in the nation in degrees in these areas issued by public universities in 2010. While Michigan ranks fourth in the total number of degrees offered (we are the 8th largest state by population), we rank as number one among those 10 states in degrees awarded per 100,000 residents. This shows that Michigan universities – and its graduates – are reacting to the job market. Students are selecting these more technically oriented fields as majors. Students are aware of the job market, and are seeking to align their majors with increased opportunities for employment in good paying positions after college.
In addition, Michigan’s universities have beefed up counseling, internship and job placement operations, providing students with the information and real world opportunities they need to make informed decisions. Trends show students choices aligning with job market There is further evidence of supply meeting demand. Teaching degrees granted by Michigan public universities are down 35.5 percent in recent years, compared to a 1.2 percent decline nationally, according to data compiled by the Presidents Council. Degrees in English and literature are down by 15.3 percent.
Meanwhile, degrees granted by Michigan universities in health related fields have more than doubled, up 102.3 percent, compared to a 95.2 percent increase nationally, and the number of degrees in biology and biomedical related fields is up 54.5 percent, compared to 46.5 percent nationally.
Michigan’s universities have close relationships with employers around the state, with particularly close ties to businesses near their campus in many cases. They welcome additional information from employers about job opportunities that they need filled in the short and long term.
But at a time when some are saying Michigan needs to do more to align the supply of college graduates with the current demands of employers, it’s clear that Michigan students, with the help of their counselors, are reacting smartly to market forces.
The Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan serves as a forum for the presidents and chancellors of the Michigan 15 public universities to discuss and frame positions on key higher education finance and policy issues.