Students, veterans, and mobility experts converge at American Center for Mobility

When she graduates from University of Michigan Dearborn this spring, Huda Abbas will be eager to apply her skills as a mechanical engineer in the growing connected and autonomous vehicle industry.

That’s why she and about 600 other students and military veterans gathered on a blustery February Friday inside Hangar 1 at the American Center for Mobility (ACM) for a mobility career exploration event.

Abbas attended the event to learn about opportunities in CAD and product development, and a future career in chassis design, environmental, safety, or efficiency with an automotive OEM.
Huda Abbas
“My dream job is to work for Chrysler, specifically with autonomous development,” Abbas says. “The silence of the electric vehicle is the future, although it’s sad to see the combustion engine go.”

Kwame Malone is also drawn to the vast career opportunities in mobility, and attended the event to learn more about the industry itself. A native of St. Louis, Malone switched his major from marketing to computer engineering and software development when he recognized his aptitude for technology. He’s completing general studies requirements at Macomb Community College, with a goal of transferring to Wayne State University.

“It’s great to rub elbows with future employers, and Detroit is the place to work if you want to work in automotive. I’m the kind of person who likes to measure ten times and cut once, so I’m working hard to solidify my career path,” says Malone, who lives in Detroit.

Connecting mobility employers to STEM-focused minds

The career exploration event was designed to connect Michigan-based industry experts with potential future employees, and offered the chance for valuable facetime between job seekers and prospective employers.

Inside the hangar were mobility industry booths from industry and public sector partners such as Toyota, PlanetM, Tass International, Subaru, AT&T, Grimm, Adient, Magnetimarelli, Fiat Chrysler, Michigan Department of Transportation, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Industry experts gathered resumes and talked with attendees about careers and internship opportunities. Some, like Harman and Ford, brought demonstration vehicles previously displayed at CES and the North American International Auto Show.

Attendees also toured the 500-acre test facility and rode in autonomous vehicles.

The event was an effort of ACM’s Academic Consortium, an agreement launched in 2017 with 15 Michigan colleges and universities for development of industry-specific education and training to grow a world-class workforce, specifically geared toward next-generation mobility, says Laurel Champion, chief operating officer of ACM.

“This event shows the reality of the many jobs developing in this rapidly changing industry, which is really a convergence of technology, communication, and automation,” says Champion.
Harman demonstrates technology at the ACM Career Exploration event
Military veterans can also bring skills that are vital to the success of the mobility industry, says Soraya Kim, chief innovation officer at ACM.

“We have a passion to help veterans transition into society and into the workforce and recognize their talents, many of which fit well into the construction industry. We’re especially advocates for the disabled, and want to see them find a place in the mobility workforce,” says Kim.

ACM, which officially opened last December at the historic Willow Run site in Ypsilanti Township, also studies workforce development in the midst of mobility disruption, and has sponsored research to determine the impact of autonomous vehicles on driving-related jobs, and the training and curriculum development that will be necessary and advantageous to take full advantage of technology and innovation. The research, conducted by Michigan State University and Texas A&M, and co-funded by AARP and Waymo, is scheduled for release this summer.

Diversity strengthens this new industry

Abbas and Malone both recognize Detroit as a global leader in mobility, but they also feel proud that they represent diversity, which they see as a valuable asset in STEM fields.
Kwame Malone
“I’ve been exposed to many different cultures and languages, which I believe helps me know how to talk to all kinds of people,” says Abbas, who lived in Iraq and Syria before settling in North Dakota, and eventually attending U-M. “I have met many people who have lived in Dearborn all their lives, which is great. But I’ve lived outside the bubble, and I can apply a different design perspective because of that.”

Malone wants to lead and inspire younger family members to pursue careers in STEM fields, especially in connected and autonomous vehicle development.

“You don’t expect to see me working in engineering, but the world needs to see different faces. This is beautiful, and it’s inspirational, and not just for me, but for cousins and friends. I want to be a role model for them,” he says.
 
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