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Ann Arbor Spark

March 19, 2019

“Growth beats comfort,” and other takeaways from the Workforce Pipeline Summit

Contributed by Phil Santer, Ann Arbor SPARK, Senior Vice President. Ann Arbor SPARK is a proud sponsor of the Workforce Pipeline Summit.  

On Monday, the A2Y Chamber hosted a first-of-its-kind Workforce Pipeline Summit, bringing together people from across Washtenaw County, and Southeast Michigan (including the Governor), to talk about the current state of our workforce “pipeline” and ways to address a future with what we’d like for our talent market.

Just a frog?

A few key takeaways:

  • Mary Jo Callan of the Ginsberg Center opened the summit with a reminder that our workforce is really not a “pipeline” it is more like a rivershed. Rivers are never as “neat” as a “pipeline” and begin and end in places that you wouldn’t expect. (Who knew the Huron River started in Oakland County and ended up in Lake Erie?) She also had a great reminder that the way we view and assume things often changes based on new information or simply looking at things in a different way. A good reminder that we all work with models of the world, but sometimes those models need to be challenged in order to move forward.
  • While Washtenaw County ranks near the top of the list in most educational attainment metrics, the numbers are not as rosy when you disaggregate Ann Arbor versus other parts of the county. This has been documented before, but Mollie Bush, a PhD student at U-M, showed the testing and other data that demonstrated the disparity between school districts.
  • Ann Marie Sastry of Amesite gave an overview of how technology can be used to improve the education process, and in fact, needs to – and that doesn’t just mean people of “school age.” Sastry brought up a theme that was mentioned throughout the day — “continuous learning is now essential.” Long gone are the days that our formal school ended at 18, or 22, or even 25. Success will require continued education as we move forward. She also shared some great company values for Amesite which seem worth resharing, including that “optimism beats cynicism” – “honest beats politeness” – “growth beats comfort” and “humility beats arrogance.”
  • Raffaele Mautone, formerly CIO at Duo Security, gave part of the keynote at the summit (the other part was provided by Governor Whitmer). Raffaele discussed how good bartending skills can help in lots of other careers — good communication skills, good problem solving & the ability to fit in —– all are key drivers in a variety of places with people you encounter.

The afternoon was based on discussing and creating a vision for a future workforce. This is a complex topic and there was a lot of content in a very short amount of time. Per pupil funding, racial disparities, soft skills, place-based education, data, the role and history of community colleges, were among just some of the other topics discussed. I look forward to working towards the vision(s) that were laid out in the Summit and appreciate the openness and perspective that everyone provided during the sessions. Big thanks to Rich Chang at NewFoundry and the A2Y Chamber for putting together a solid day on a complex topic that demands our attention.