If you haven’t heard about MI Bright Future, now would be a very good time. If you have heard about it, chances are there’s more to learn. If you are a middle or high school student, an employer, or a parent, or if you care about the future of Michigan’s workforce or the businesses needing vast numbers of graduates to keep them running, read on.
The mission of MI Bright Future is to build partnerships with local companies and professionals who can provide middle and high school students with meaningful career awareness experiences. By doing so, everyone benefits with Michigan seeing more jobs filled, students gaining invaluable information and experience and businesses accessing enough qualified applicants to keep them in the black.
MI Bright Future has been in force since the spring of 2015. It connects businesses to students, high school counselors, and teachers, and it allows local companies to create profiles that show students who they are and what they do. It puts career exploration opportunities like job shadows and company tours within students’ reach.
Sarah Gregory is MI Bright Future’s program director. She has her hands full with implementation strategy, fundraising, business recruitment, marketing, communications and staff oversight. That list is of the “including but not limited to” sort, meaning that her full responsibilities are much greater. Gregory has been involved since the program’s inception and says it is the culmination of a lot of research around the need for a single system to provide connections between businesses and high schools statewide.
“It is a partnership of schools, chambers [of commerce], postsecondary institutions, community organizations and employers working together to ensure the academic and financial success of all Michigan students,” said Gregory.
MI Bright Future’s parent organization, the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN), had been examining education completion data for several years prior to MI Bright Future’s launch. It found the state was falling far short of producing the numbers of qualified graduates necessary to fill all its high-demand jobs. According to Gregory, job demand in a given field can be up to 10 times higher than the number of people completing any type of degree in that field, and people need to be getting these degrees in order to qualify for the jobs.
Complicating matters is that students are expressing interest in occupations such as “professional athlete” or “video game developer,” occupations not in high demand in the way engineering and information technology jobs are. Says Gregory, “WIN and its partners recognized the need for a program allowing students to touch and feel the jobs that are actually available to them in their own backyard – great jobs with high salaries and interesting work.” Through the program, students can chat online with virtual career coaches and ask questions about day-to-day life in specific jobs, likes and dislikes, educational pathways and more.
The MI Bright Future website is easy to navigate with numerous ways businesses can engage, including online marketing, presentations, working with chambers of commerce, networking and participating in one-on-one meetings.
Students can choose from 20 types of experiences offered by companies. Beside the aforementioned job shadows and tours, students might obtain internships, project support opportunities, and summer and part-time jobs. As of this writing, the site offered 5,328 available activities with over 750 companies in a range of industries. Gregory feels that all students should try the program whether they know what they want to do after graduation or not.
“Either they can figure out what they might want to pursue after school, or they can confirm that pathway early through direct experience. Some students declare a major in a field without ever experiencing it, and later find they do not enjoy that field. Not only that, but colleges and employers look for work experience and extracurricular activities on applications, and MI Bright Future helps students access that experience.”
If you’d like to learn more about the program, visit mibrightfuture.org/.