For more than 18 months, it's been an oft-quoted figure: There are an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 unfilled jobs in Michigan because the workforce here doesn't have enough technical skills to fill the demand.
With the statistic comes the worry that Michigan can't attract enough talent to facilitate a strong economy. While the state's three research universities —Wayne State and Michigan State universities and the University of Michigan— produced 14,000 graduates with high-demand degrees in 2011, many of them left the state not long after walking across the commencement stage.
About 40 percent of U-M alumni live in Michigan.
"I've not heard about students leaving the University of Michigan destitute and unable to get jobs. I hear they do quite well and many of them leave the state," said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who spoke Monday during an Inforum luncheon at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. "Shame on us if we can't convince the students to come and look at the opportunities in Michigan. We don’t do enough of that."
Lou Anna K. Simon, president of MSU, and Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the Council on Competitiveness, joined Coleman in a panel discussion about global competitiveness that also touched on the state's need for technical employees.
Coleman said U-M's engineering school is at capacity, spending millions to immerse students in real-word situations in technology fields, and shifted some of the burden of combatting the state's brain drain to businesses.
State corporations, Coleman said, have to do more to convince recent college graduates to stay in state.