MICHauto: Changing automotive perceptionsMICHauto Summit celebrates the 'cool' culture and careers in the automotive industry

Today’s automotive industry is not the same industry of decades past. Fueled by cutting-edge technology innovation, complex software to power connectivity and automated driving systems, and sleek, modern designs that accommodate fuel economy standards, no other industry offers the opportunity to pursue the exciting, well-paying careers that appeal to younger generations.
 
However, with a growing shortage of highly skilled talent necessary to fill manufacturing, software and engineering jobs, Michigan’s leadership in next-generation vehicle R&D remains in jeopardy.
 
“Long are the days where car companies are only interested in putting wheels on cars and getting them on the roads. The automotive industry has collided with high-tech and a revolution has begun,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives at the Detroit Regional Chamber.
 
With more than 2,200 facilities that conduct automotive research, design, engineering, testing and validation in Michigan, the need to retain talent is greater than ever, Stevens said.
 
“Mechanical and electrical engineers will always be a staple in the industry but now, the industry needs coders, software developers, technology scientists and data engineers to take those cars and connect them to the Internet of Things,” Stevens said.

“The connected car will drastically change how people, services, goods and data are moved around us,” he added. “We have to ask ourselves, ' What are we doing to make sure we're attracting, retaining and creating talent?' Our economic future depends on it.”

This year’s MICHauto Summit was aimed at doing just that. The Summit, aptly titled “A Conversation on Culture & Careers,” brought together more than 300 industry leaders and high-pots (high-potential employees) with more than 100 students from colleges and universities across the state to showcase the industry’s diverse opportunities as part of a larger effort to close the perception gap and encourage more automotive interest among youths.

In addition to tours of Detroit Labs, the PlanetM Landing Zone at WeWork, and TechTown, students heard from top industry thought leaders, including Faurecia’s Elizabeth Griffth, Toyota’s Kristen Tabar, Ford Motor Company’s Musa Tariq, Fontinalis Partners’ Chris Thomas, and May Mobility’s Steve Vozar, among others.

Several speakers reiterated the message that there is a place for everyone in the automotive industry and that liberal arts are just as important as technology and advanced engineering skills.
 
“We are really looking for those people who want to … solve those mobility problems and challenges of the future. Those specialists in engineering and chemistry, fi nance, instrumentation, software, anthropology and everything in between,” Tabar said. “Our industry is really changing and we need talented problem solvers, researchers and deployers for all these modern technologies.”
 
Tariq said he believes that talent lies in Detroit.
 
“Innovation occurs in two spheres: Where there is surplus and where you create out of collective energy,” he said, adding that Detroit’s “go get it” attitude is infectious for youth looking to leave their mark on the world.
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