A $34,000 grant from Michigan’s Going PRO Talent Fund will help the engineers at a global company’s Farmington Hills office advance their skills as they design powertrains for vehicles of the future.
That company, Drive System Design, specializes in the development of powertrain technologies for clients including automakers, Tier 1 suppliers, and others. It was just one of 819 employers to receive grants from Michigan’s Going PRO Talent Fund, administered by Michigan Works! Agencies, this year. The program awards grants to assist in training, developing, and retaining employees. In all, $29 million in grants was awarded in fiscal year 2019. The average grant per employer was $35,968.
The grant marked the first time Drive System Design, a market leader in transmission technology development, applied to the Going PRO Talent Fund.
“This is a great way to catapult our workforce,” says Matt Hole, vice president of Drive System Design Inc., the U.K.-based company’s U.S. arm. “It’s something we really take pride in when we hire and develop people. This was a great way to speed up the process of training some engineers. Advancing abilities and skills in technology is paramount to us.”
Drive System Design employs about 30 workers in southeast Michigan. Globally, the company has 130 workers.
“We have a lot of new people and a lot of our training is done in house,” Hole says. “The (grant) helps us accelerate that and provides a more efficient and fuller development program for our starting engineers.”
To provide advanced training for employees through the grant, the company is tapping regional resources, including the University of Michigan, Detroit Training Center, and Applied Geometrics, to help with development in areas where the company lacks expertise. Both newly hired engineers and those already on staff will be receiving further training.
“Employees are our most important asset. For us, their development is paramount, not only to retain our ability to be a market leader, but also for the fulfillment of the engineers who are working for us,” Hole says. “We have low turnover because of incentives like this.”
“Developing our staff contributes to their fulfillment and their enjoyment at work,” he adds. “It helps them with their motivation, and it comes full circle. It helps us become a more productive, efficient company.”
Of course, career development will also continue in the future.
“It’s something we basically assess with our employees as part of their development program,” Hole says. “What we need varies from year to year. We identify our development needs in conjunction with our staff. We let our engineers and the people in our company drive what the requirements become over time.”
The grant has also enabled the company to secure additional work. Workers received additional training in testing heavy equipment with high voltages, critical for the development of vehicle electrification.
That plays into Drive System Design’s goal of becoming the premier site for powertrain testing in Michigan. The company relocated to a larger space and added a testing facility in Farmington Hills in October last year. It also plans to continue to expand in Farmington Hills, eventually looking to employ up to 60 engineers. The company received a $175,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. last year to grow its operations over the next three years, including the addition of another 25 workers.
Drive System Design has chosen to remain in metro Detroit because of the area’s status as a growing center for the development of electric and autonomous vehicles, investment in the city and the region by companies like Ford Motor Co., and the extensive engineering talent available, ranging from experienced engineers to graduates coming out of the area’s high-caliber colleges.
“There’s rich engineering talent in the region,” Hole says.