Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and Wayne State University President Roy Wilson launched the University Research Corridor’s Attracting, Fostering and Inspiring Talent in the Global Economy report at the Detroit Chamber of Commerce’s Mackinac Island Policy Conference. Here, they discuss some of the report’s highlights.

Question: How do University Research Corridor universities contribute to the talent pool in Michigan?

President Simon: Our three Carnegie-classified highly intensive research institutions are not only retaining world class talent, but actively recruiting skilled individuals from around the globe, putting Michigan on the map for research and innovation. URC talent embodies a depth and breadth of skills that are essential in our ever-changing global economy.

Q: What value do University Research Corridor degrees hold for graduates in the real world?

President Schlissel: The attainment of a degree from one of our universities proves to be instrumental in preparing Michigan’s talent base for the real world applications in their careers, fostering an impact that extends beyond the walls of our three institutions.

Q: How do the numbers of advanced degrees that the URC confers benefit Michigan?

President Wilson: URC institutions provide high-tech companies and other employers in need of advanced skills with a pool of talented workers that are often in short supply in other areas. Of the nearly 27,000 advanced degrees conferred by colleges and universities in Michigan, the URC accounted for 48%. In the critical talent need for engineering, the URC accounts for 61% of all engineering degrees conferred in the state – and accounts for nearly 75% of all engineering advanced degrees conferred in Michigan.

Q: Research has shown that employers want young professionals with multiple skills, not just knowledge in a single area. Do URC grads have those skills?   

President Simon: Past surveys show that more than half of URC graduates say that at least eight out of 16 critical skills gained from their experience at our universities have been critical to their career. URC graduates are deep in content knowledge and competent in broad-based, connective skills such as communication and teamwork. These kinds of skill sets, which are highly desired by employers, are enabled by our unique research capabilities and they differentiate URC programs from other colleges and universities. Those skills are essential to equip graduates with the ability to cross disciplines and work with—and to lead—diverse teams to solve complicated problems.

Q: How important is a URC university education to the economy of Michigan and to jobs in our state?

President Schlissel: We know that about 70 percent of the jobs in Michigan in the year 2020 will require education beyond the high school level. The URC universities are attracting the talent and providing the educated graduates our state needs to continue its economic rebirth.

Q: How much does the URC spend on research and development and what benefit does that offer to Michigan?

President Wilson: The URC universities spend $2.1 billion annually on research and development. This accounts for 94 percent of the federal research dollars and 93 percent of the total research dollars received by Michigan universities. This activity sustains many of our 12,000 world-class faculty and more than 35,000 graduate students who tend to put down roots where they train.