Delta College

Jobs and Skills Network facilitated by Delta College

By Scott Schultz

Director, STEM Talent Institute at Delta College


Delta College serves the Great Lakes Bay Region by educating, enriching and empowering our diverse community of learners to achieve their personal, professional and academic goals.  Delta College is a community college serving over 10,000 students a year drawing heavily from Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties.  We enroll over 35% of the local high school graduates every year.  Two-thirds of our students are pursing STEM careers, with a heavy emphasis in Health Care and the Trades and Manufacturing sectors.  Our largest growth over the last year is with our dual enrolled students; we currently serve almost 1000 dual enrolled students annually.  

This year Delta College created the STEM Talent Institute to coordinate and expand our efforts in developing the STEM talent desperately needed for the Great Lakes Bay Region that we serve.  At the STEM Talent Institute, we work closely with the region’s employers and study their needs and the skill sets needed by new employees.  At the same time we work with K12 teachers and students to provide high quality experiences to attract more students into high demand STEM programs of study.  We are working to build the STEM pipeline into a seamless flow from K12 to higher education to the region’s workforce.  

Partnerships are key to moving initiatives forward.  One example of leveraging partnerships is the DOW Great Lakes Bay STEM Festival.  This two-day annual festival started in 2013 and has grown every year.  On the first day of the festival we invite middle school students to campus and have reached our capacity with 3500 students attending on that single day.  The second day is free and open to the public where we reach another 3500 individuals.  This festival is a collaboration between Michigan Tech’s MindTrekkers, DOW Chemical and Delta College and includes partnerships with many local K12, higher education and industry leaders along with close to 400 volunteers to bring the “WOW” of STEM to life. 

Anyone that has studied the STEM talent crises that we are facing realizes that it will take a united and coordinated effort from all stakeholders to realize the long-term goals necessary for achieving success and moving our economy forward.  Random acts of STEM simply cannot move the needle of success far enough to generate the talent pool needed to drive our economy.  The real Disruptive Innovation that is occurring in the Great Lakes Bay Region is the level of collaboration that is occurring.  Central Michigan University, Mid-Michigan Community College, Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College are working collectively under the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance STEM Steering committee to inspire more students to consider entering STEM programs of study. Companies competing for STEM workers from the same limited talent pool are sitting down together to develop regional solutions.

One of the major roles of Delta’s STEM Talent Institute is hosting the Jobs and Skills network facilitated by Delta College. This network is one of four networks that have been established this year across the Great Lakes Bay Region in response to a comprehensive STEM Impact Initiative study that was completed one year ago on the Great Lakes Bay Region.  The study concluded with recommendations in four categories and each of the networks are working collaboratively under the direction of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance STEM steering committee to implement these recommendations.  The four higher education institutions each have agreed to provide leadership for one of the networks.

The networks are made up of the region’s most important leaders in the STEM fields from industry, non-profits, K12 and higher education.  The jobs and skills network at Delta College is blessed with K12 principles and STEM teachers, industry leaders from Dow Chemical, Hemlock Semi-Conductor and Fullerton Tool, Health care representatives from two of the regions major hospital groups, non-profit representation from Michigan Works and the Great Lakes Bay Manufacturing Association, union representation of skilled workers as well as higher education from both Saginaw State University and Delta College.  Working collaboratively the team has ambitiously taken on multiple recommendations from the study including:

  • Specify needed technical and workplace skills and competencies for high-demand positions

  • Forecast near-term demand and aggregate STEM workforce requirements

  • Align programming and curricula with employer requirements

To accomplish these recommendations, the network has developed and is refining an approach that includes

  • Working with sector employers to identify the most challenging occupations to find qualified new employees.  As part of this we ask employers to share past hiring data as well as predict near-term expectations for these self-identified challenging positions to fill.

  • Once a specific occupation has been identified, we conduct a DACUM study (Designing a Curriculum), a well-established process used to profile the skills and competencies required for a specific occupation.

  • Finally, we plan to host an employer/education summit where the results of the DACUM are shared with the employers and the region’s educational partners that train students for the specific occupation studied.  

Currently we have finished the Sector Study in Health Care, bringing together the HR directors from all the major health care employers to discuss challenges they face.  This turned out to be enlightening for both those of us facilitating the meeting and the directors.  They all reported needing to hire 30%-40% of the workforce annually, and retention is a major problem.  Upon completion of the meeting, it was agreed that registered nursing was the health care occupation that the group believed would benefit the most from a deep regional study.

A DACUM study will be completed over several days in December for the registered nurses and the employer/education summit will take place in early January for the registered nurse occupation.  Meanwhile, we are running a sub taskforce through the same process in manufacturing.  We started this task force one month later than the health care to learn from and refine the process that they are working through.  We are excited to determine the occupation that this sector will determine is crucial to study.

The network has also been busy developing a grant proposal to move the project forward.  We look to establish the Great Lakes Bay Region STEM Employer Demand Center at Delta College.  The director of the center will be responsible to oversee the refinement of the process the network has developed as they conduct studies in other STEM sectors.  The director will also work with area employers to develop a forward-looking job expectation for the top STEM occupations.  The ultimate goal will be a better correlation between the number of students enrolled in a program and the expected job openings.  The network will serve as an advisory panel for the STEM Employer Demand Center as well as to develop additional responses to improve the STEM pipeline for the Great Lakes Bay Region.  If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.  The disruptive collaboration taking place at Delta College and the Great Lakes Bay Region will take us far in creating the region’s STEM driven economy.

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