Governor Gretchen Whitmer talks vision, closing the skills gap during visit to HFC

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Governor Whitmer and two HFC students

Governor Gretchen Whitmer brought her vision for Michigan to Henry Ford College Thursday, March 14, while also touring College programs and discussing students' career goals and how the College is addressing the skills gap.

Governor Whitmer meets HFC students in the automotive ASSET lab

The governor began her one-hour visit with a presentation to a group of about 40 people to highlight her top priorities for Michigan, including needs for education, career-ready skills, clean water, and of course, the state’s roads.

Whitmer then toured HFC’s School of Health and Human Services Surgical Technology program and HFC’s automotive technology ASSET program. The governor interacted with students simulating surgery in a high-tech surgical lab, and watched technology demonstrations from students working on cars in a state-of-the-art automotive lab.

These were just two program highlights that demonstrated how HFC’s programs prepare our graduates to meet Michigan’s needs across the many fields that require specific skills training. Afterward, she spoke to media and took some extra time to talk to HFC students about the future.

“We have a skills gap in Michigan. These programs are incredibly important to strengthening the economy, and we all benefit when we do that,” said Whitmer. "Students who graduate from programs like the ones I saw today all have jobs waiting for them, and they're not going to have debt. They have a real path to prosperity."

Determined to create opportunities

Whitmer has been visiting community colleges across the state since her State of the State Address in February, during which she proposed a Michigan Opportunity Scholarship to provide tuition-free community college education to Michigan residents.

Governor Whitmer with a class of HFC automotive tech students, President Kavalhuna, and Henry Ford III.

The association between household income and education levels is strong. Highly educated states boast some of the highest per-capita incomes in the nation. Michigan currently ranks 36th for post-secondary educational attainment (the number of residents with a high-quality industrial certificate, associate degree or higher) and 34th for household income. Michigan ranks near the bottom in literacy as well. A much larger per-pupil investment is needed.

The governor pointed out that the issue is not that our children aren’t smart or hard-working enough, or that our teachers aren’t qualified or dedicated enough. The issue is that we are not investing in education at a basic level that students and teachers need to succeed.

After students complete high school, the Michigan Opportunity Scholarship would address the state’s higher education shortfall by enabling more Michigan adults to complete a post-secondary degree. The scholarship will play a key role in helping Michigan reach the governor’s post-secondary attainment goal of 60 percent by 2030.

“There was a point in history when we had the best skilled workforce in the world. We used to make a much greater investment in college degrees, so they were affordable for everyone. This is important to our economic future, and I want to keep working toward improving that,” said Whitmer. “I’m working my tail off to make sure the legislature passes a budget that doesn’t just make promises, but actually fixes the roads, closes the skills trades gap, cleans up drinking water, and makes sure that our children in our P-12 schools are in the Top 10 in our country again.”

HFC's role in Michigan's future

Governor Whitmer and President Kavalhuna discuss HFC's role in improving Michigan's future.

HFC is already making great strides toward the skills employers need now and in the future. The College has partnerships with the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan, DTE Energy, Michigan Works!, the Big Three automotive companies, and many others. HFC has also partnered with area high schools to provide Career and Technical Education programs. In addition, HFC has transfer agreements with the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, Madonna University, Siena Heights University, and the University of Michigan-Dearborn, among others.

“It was an honor to have Governor Whitmer visit Henry Ford College. She got to see firsthand some of the ways in which HFC is a gateway to top-quality higher education and rewarding careers, whether our graduates go directly into the workforce or transfer to four-year educational institutions,” said HFC President Russell Kavalhuna. “She told me that she was impressed with our state-of-the-art facilities, and more importantly, with the students at our College and their willingness to work hard for a good future. That makes me very proud.”

Other civic and community leaders who joined the governor on her tour of HFC included members of the HFC Board of Trustees and Foundation Board, Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko, Henry Ford III, DTE’s Nancy Moody, and others.

“Governor Whitmer’s goals and our goals at the College are very well aligned in closing the skills gap,” said Kavalhuna. “Henry Ford College serves a niche in this community and this city, the birthplace of Ford Motor Company and the automotive industry. In fact, Wayne County is one of the top 40 counties in the United States with the largest increase in manufacturing employment, and we are proud to play a role in that.”