COLLABORATION

How corporate scholarships are empowering Michigan businesses

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Leading businesses in Michigan are offering corporate scholarships to help offset the cost of a degree education for their employees.

Given the pace of growth across most industry sectors today, it’s unsurprising that a major struggle of businesses trying to stay competitive in the digital age is staff retraining and upskilling.

This is especially true of older businesses, who are already contending with a litany of legacy problems from old systems to entrenched habits.

But to survive means putting real thought into closing the gap between today’s employees and the workforce of the future.

Simply investing in new technology isn’t going to solve the problem of a wholly under-skilled workforce. Recruiting fresh talent isn’t the easiest way either, not especially when considering the current competition for talent and the ever-present mismatch of graduate skills with business needs.

What employers need to do is expand the capabilities and employability of their current employees through mentoring, virtual learning, microlearning, tuition reimbursement programmes or corporate education scholarships.

As we reported here, an individual’s education journey no longer ends after they pick up a college degree; learning is now continuous and lifelong, which means companies have to be ready with programmes that allow employees to pick up new skills while still serving the firm.

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In Michigan state, a unique initiative provides such an opportunity to the current workforce – via corporate scholarships. 

Offered to leading businesses that demonstrate real commitment to investing in educating their employees, the initiative is the product of an exclusive partnership between the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Davenport University, a private, non-profit institution established in 1866.

Kicked off in January last year, the purpose of the programme is to equip workforces statewide with the necessary skills for the 21st century by bringing them back to school to advance their knowledge in relevant fields.

“One of the key objectives is helping fill the talent gap for our members,’’ Brian Doyle, director of Member Engagement and Chamber Advancement, said recently in Mlive.

Through the corporate scholarships initiative, the business advocacy’s 6,000 member employers are eligible to receive the following:

  • Corporate education scholarships of between US$2,500 and US$5,000 per employee for more undergraduate and graduate degree programmes at the university
  • Renewable scholarships that apply toward six classes or 18 credit hours per year
  • A 20 percent discount on professional development workshops, certificate programme and other non-credit training opportunities at Davenport University campuses
  • Davenport University application fees will be waived

The funds are available for up to 100 employees and participation is renewable for up to four years.

“This partnership reduces the financial burden of pursuing an education while helping organisations enhance their benefits package and address the talent gaps within their workforce,” says an explainer on the corporate scholarships initiative.

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In March this year, Davenport teamed up with the TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants (TSFR) to offer a US$250,000 scholarship through the initiative for the firm’s over 5,000 employees. 

“Our people are a key component of our core values at TSFR and we remain committed to investing in training and development programs that allow our more than 5,000 employees to succeed both personally and professionally,” Mark Schostak, TSFR executive chairman said in a press release then.

TSFR is a family-owned restaurant group that owns more than 100 casual dining, quick serving, fast casual and family dining restaurants across the state. 

Last week, Davenport University announced another partnership for the corporate sponsorships initiative, this time with technology and insurance solutions and services provider Emergent Holdings.

As with TSFR, Emergent employees will get their pick of a new academic qualification from Davenport at a reduced price, an opportunity the firm believes would go a long way towards transforming its future.

“The growth and success of Emergent Holdings is dependent upon attracting and retaining the best people in our industries,” Darcy Kerr, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, said.

“It’s our people who make a difference to our customers and in the states where we do business,” she pointed out.

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By collaborating with Davenport to offer the scholarships, Emergent employees would now have new opportunities for learning, development and career growth, a win-win for both employer and employee, as well as for the state economy,

“Ultimately, this transforms the future of our company,” Kerr said.

Emergent Holdings has revenues of US$8.4 billion with operations in all 50 states across the US and Puerto Rico, reaching over 8.5 million people. 

Commenting, Davenport University President Richard Pappas said:

“With Michigan’s growing economy, our state is facing an insatiable demand for strong talent within our expanding workforce.

“With this program, we’ll be able to empower employers to tackle this issue head-on by leveraging one of their most invaluable resources – their employees.”