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Laker Accelerated Talent Link

June 12, 2024

As the president of Michigan’s third-largest university, I frequently talk to business owners across the entire state. Regardless of whether it’s an international company with thousands of employees or a family-owned business in a small town, I hear the same thing, “We need talent and we need it now!”

Currently, education leaders, the business community and elected officials are all collaborating on a plethora of plans and strategies to help Michigan map out its future economy with the goal of becoming a top 10 state. However, to do that requires a talent pipeline full of workers who have both the job skills and the critical thinking to not only do the work but to get up to speed quickly. It was that need that inspired the Laker Accelerated Talent Link. Grand Valley State University (GVSU) co-created this unique work-and-learning partnership with business leaders to offer students a customized learning experience while fulfilling immediate and longer-term talent demands.

Talent Link pairs Grand Valley students with companies to provide an enhanced paid internship experience that accelerates the onboarding process through directed education, alongside embedding high-demand certification in areas like digital marketing and project management. By co-building this program, we can ensure the benefits are focused on the areas of highest need for students and companies. These include students earning a certificate in an area related to the business on top of their degree, scholarship support from the partner employer, and a good faith working agreement where the student agrees to work for the employer upon completion of the internship.

Our first cohort of students is working with our founding partners right now: Acrisure, Amway, Cascade Engineering, Corewell Health and Michigan Software Labs. Based on our early results, we are looking to scale the program statewide and are actively seeking new partners to offer this opportunity to more students and help more businesses across Michigan find the talent they need.

Talent Link is designed to be fast, cost-effective and nimble. The fact that businesses are partners in the initiative means we always have real-time information on what employers need and can adjust and expand without years of build-up.

The rollout of Talent Link focused on students in the areas of Applied Data Analytics, Business Fundamentals, Project Management and Technical Sales. For the Fall of 2024 we’ve added Digital Marketing, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Asset Management/Real Estate and are looking at even more opportunities as needed, based on the wide range of programs that GVSU offers.

No different than many aspects of our lives, higher education is adapting to deal with the rapidly changing world we live in. Today’s students are very different from what they were even five years ago. They want knowledge, are hyper-focused on skills that can be used in their chosen fields and are determined to get a return on their higher education investment. Students are embracing the idea of making early connections with potential employers and are eager to work while still a student, which sets them up for future success.

We also know that the speed of change means neither those of us in higher education nor leaders in the business community can predict what skills will be in demand in the future. That’s why on top of skills training, GVSU students bring the benefits of a liberal arts and sciences education to their Talent Link experience. This education leads to students who arrive at an employer with a global perspective, critical thinking to help with problem solving and the communication skills necessary to succeed in a professional setting.

With Talent Link, employers not only get the opportunity to access talent earlier, but also benefit from an extended onboarding time frame for their future full-time hires. This flexibility allows for a smoother transition and ensures that the employees are fully prepared for their roles. For the student, it’s increasing the value of their degree and lowering their costs. It’s a win-win situation.

As a public university, we are dedicated to serving both our students and building our businesses and regional economy. We take our responsibility seriously and are committed to preparing the leaders and talent that will guide our state for years to come.

Regardless of the size of your company, if you’re interested in Talent Link, we’d love to talk to you about customizing an opportunity that fits your needs. Please contact Mallory Brouwer, our Director of Corporate Partnerships, at 616.879.9591 or


By Dr. Philomena (Philly) V. Mantella, president of Grand Valley State University (GVSU); originally published in SBAM’s May/Juneh 2024 issue of FOCUS magazine

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