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Education System Failing Latinos In Michigan

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan is failing to properly educate its fastest-growing demographic group, Latinos, which could hurt the state’s chances of competing in the emerging global economy, according to the first-ever statewide study of Latinos’ economic impact in Michigan.

The report, by Michigan State University’s Julian Samora Research Institute and the Center for Economic Analysis, found Latinos have a positive impact on the state economy, contrary to perceptions that they’re simply a drain on public resources.

But Latinos are confined to low-skill, low-paying occupations largely because they are denied equal access to adequate K-12 and higher-level education and training, said Rubén Martinez, director of the research institute.

“Frankly, the education system both in Michigan and across the country has failed to adequately educate Latinos,” said Martinez, who authored the study with Steven Miller, director of MSU’s Center for Economic Analysis.

Martinez said Michigan will experience a shortage in high-skill positions as baby boomers retire in substantial numbers starting this year and the overall population remains stagnant.

Latinos could help fill the worker shortage. While Michigan’s overall population grew just 0.1 percent from 2000 to 2008, the Latino population grew 3.1 percent – a trend that’s expected to continue, the study says. Nationwide, the Latino population is predicted to increase from 15 percent of the overall population to 30 percent by 2050.

In addition, although Latinos make up only 4.1 percent of Michigan’s population, they comprise 14 percent of the workforce.

Bottom line: Michigan has an existing workforce that could help fill a coming gap if it is provided adequate education and training, Martinez said.

“Certainly as we move into the future, all the high-tech, high-skill positions are going to experience shortages, and we’re either going to educate our domestic workforce to occupy those positions or we’re going to have to import them,” Martinez said. “When we talk about thinking American, does that really include training and utilizing all of our different labor forces, or does that just include buying products that are American-made?”    

For a four-page summary of the report, visit here. The report is being released in conjunction with Michigan Hispanic Advocacy Day on Wednesday.

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Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.



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