Higher education in Ann Arbor opens the door for young professionals
Consistently ranked as one of the top college towns in the nation, Ann Arbor has perfected the transfer of talent from its robust network of colleges and universities to growing industries including life sciences and technology.
The University of Michigan graduates more than 13,000 students each year and Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti another 5,000, providing a deep pool of talent for local employers.
Other higher education institutions in the region include Concordia University Ann Arbor and Cleary University.
Washtenaw Community College, which boasts an enrollment of more than 13,000 students, plays a critical role in the region’s workforce development, offering 100 programs and more than 1,000 credit and non-credit courses. One of the college’s missions is to support local economic development efforts, says Michelle Mueller, the college’s vice president of economic, community and college development.
“It’s why community colleges were created, in addition to providing the first two years of a transfer degree,” she says. “Historically that’s been our mission, and we have several programs — both on the college credit side and on the training side — to fulfill that mission.”
The college works with Michigan Works! and organizations such as economic development organization Ann Arbor SPARK to create customized training programs for relocating and expanding businesses that ensure workers have the skills these companies need when they need them. Industry advisory boards keep college officials abreast of the latest technology, equipment and skills needs.
“The college has state-of-the- art equipment and facilities, much of it donated by local companies or acquired through workforce development grants. Anything we build in curriculum and training is always going to be with insight from employers,” says Mueller.
Mueller says talent development actually starts even before students step on campus.
The college hosts STEM and STEAM summer camps to introduce K-12 students to different opportunities in a fun way and that support what they’re learning in the classroom.
“We also run educator training in some STEM-related fields,” Mueller says. “For example, we train teachers to use project- based learning when working with a group of kids in a STEM related area. We also offer dual enrollment, and we have hundreds of high school juniors and seniors who take dual enrollment classes to get a head start on their college career.”
Talent retention is a major component of the region’s workforce development strategy, and Ann Arbor offers a number of ways for graduates to assimilate into the professional community.
Ann Arbor New Tech, which launched in 2009, hosts a monthly networking event that introduces members to careers with local companies.
A2Y Converge, a young professionals group organized by the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, also helps to energize recent graduates.
During the year, A2Y hosts events tailored to meet the needs of young professionals such as speed networking, a fashion show and Ypsilanti Proud. Through these connections, young professionals can expand their industry knowledge, learn about the community and develop their leadership skills.
Ann Arbor has several attributes which make the area attractive to young professionals,” says Chelsea Brown, development director at SOS Community Service in Ypsilanti and steering committee chair for A2Y Converge.
“First, it’s a place where there is a broad cross-section of people to meet and socialize with. Secondly, there are so many industries here and opportunities to grow in your career,” she says. “Whether you’re looking to explore educational opportunities at one of the major universities located in and near Ann Arbor or are working in the tech, human services, or hospitality industries, there is something for you.”