WILS Morning Wake Up with Dave Akerly: Glenn Stevens Jr.

MICHauto Executive Director and Vice President of Automotive and Mobility Initiatives at the Chamber, Glenn Stevens Jr., appeared on the WILS Morning Wake Up with Dave Akerly in Lansing. Glenn discussed the testimony he and MICHauto Board Chair, and Chief Executive Officer for Global Strategic Supply Solutions, Lisa Lunsford provided the Michigan House Workforce Committee on what is driving the labor shortage in our state. Their interview is available here:

Michigan House votes to end $300 federal unemployment benefit

6/17/21

The Detroit News 

By Beth LeBlanc

Lansing — House lawmakers on Thursday voted 60-49 to end a $300 weekly federal unemployment payment that is scheduled to continue through Sept. 6 without state intervention.

In a late afternoon amendment, the GOP-led chamber changed a Democratic-sponsored bill that would have required to Unemployment Insurance Agency to use plain language to communicate with residents to add a provision preventing the agency from working with the federal government — effectively ending the state’s participation in the enhanced unemployment assistance program that started during the pandemic.

“This is exactly why people are frustrated with government today,” said Rep. Lori Stone, the Warren Democrat who sponsored the initial bill. She had her name later removed as sponsor.

“We have a real solution to a real problem today, which is being twisted to suit a partisan agenda.”

But Rep. Pauline Wendzel defended her amendment to the legislation, noting it was appropriate given the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement earlier Thursday that the state’s remaining restrictions on gatherings and masks would be lifted Tuesday.

“Normalcy is finally within our grasp,” said Wendzel, R-Coloma. “…We’re taking steps to remove reentry barriers to the workplace.”

Roughly 25 other states have plans to end their federal unemployment benefits prior to the Sept. 6 cutoff date.

Whitmer’s office has not said whether she is in favor of removing the federal aid, but the Democratic governor proposed Wednesday using the money instead to provide a $300 per week bonus to employees returning to their jobs.

The vote came hours after a Republican House committee chairwoman called on the governor to end the $300 benefit and heard from more than a dozen employers asking for the same at a Thursday morning committee hearing.

Worker shortage

During the more than hour-long hearing, employers from across the state aired their frustrations with the depleted and unpredictable worker supply, with many urging a change to federal unemployment payments.

Some have offered incentives to workers, others cut shifts and still others are looking at opportunities for automation to replace some of the workers they need.

Rep. Beth Griffin, the Mattawan Republican who chairs the Workforce, Trades and Talents Committee, called on Whitmer at Thursday’s hearing to decline the $300 federal unemployment benefits for Michigan as soon as she removes the remaining restrictions on gatherings and masks.

“The message here is that the governor has the ability and the authority and the power to discontinue the federal $300 a week extended benefits anytime,” Griffin said.

Whitmer suggested Wednesday at a press conference that the $300 per week go to employees returning to jobs through Sept. 4 — a benefit currently available only to employees in a workshare program.

“By deploying this critical federal aid, we can set up our state for success and ensure that Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities emerge stronger than ever from this pandemic,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Employers on Thursday supported changes to the unemployment pay, but argued that might not be enough to combat what they see as short- and long-term impediments to the state’s workforce.

While supply chain issues, COVID fears and unemployment disincentives are temporary challenges post-pandemic, a lack of significant wage growth, few accessible child care options, inadequate skills training and a low labor supply are long-term issues exacerbated by the pandemic, said Todd Cook of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

“As soon as 2030, we will have more deaths than births in the state of Michigan,” Cook said. “Without an increase in migration into the state of workers, that supply is going to continue to shrink and be tough to fill.”

Rep. Terry Sabo, the Muskegon Democrat who serves as vice chairman for the workforce committee, said the idea that the worker shortage is due to unemployment alone doesn’t align with the fact that many workers aren’t taking their full share of weeks of unemployment.

“I know that there are issues in each of your sectors of unemployment, but I don’t think the total blame is on the Michigan worker,” Sabo said, arguing that demographics also played a role. “… We just don’t have enough people to work.”

Michigan’s unemployment rate has decreased steadily since a record high of 22.7% in April 2020 to about 5% in May 2021. But some economists have said the lowered unemployment rate could be a reflection of people leaving the labor force, or the number of people actively looking for a job.

“There are temporary factors that are keeping the labor force down right now,” said Gabriel Ehrlich, an economic forecaster at the University of Michigan.

Those temporary factors include virus fears, increased unemployment payments, barriers to child care and a surge of job openings all at once. But he thinks those factors will begin to work themselves out in late summer and early fall.

“We do expect a lot of those to ease up; my guess would be, come October, we won’t hear as many of those stories,” he said.

But the issues experienced now may be a taste of the chronic issues expected to reach a peak in the next few years: A population failing to keep up with Michigan’s retirement and death rates, and a lower rate of immigration into the state.

“We really do count on international immigration to boost the labor force,” Ehrlich said.

Employers weigh in

In Petoskey, manufacturer Manthei Veneer is operating with 85% of its 290-person staff because of an inability to find workers. The company bought a motel and will house workers from Puerto Rico there to help as summer tourism work stresses the labor market in Northern Michigan, said Jeremy Manthei, president of the company.

“It’s creating an artificial imbalance in the labor market,” Manthei said of the unemployment payment.

“Come September, we’ve got our motel, we’ve our Puerto Rican labor, we’ve got our automation. I can see a situation in Northern Michigan where all of a sudden the summer season ends, all of the service industry jobs go away, and then all of a sudden you’ve got this wave of people looking for work that weren’t looking for work in the summer.”

When Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency reinstated its work search requirement for applicants two weeks ago, applications increased, but the individuals didn’t return calls form the company, Manthei said.

“They’re not legitimate applicants,” he said.

Luke Barber of Barber Packaging expressed similar concerns and worried about the long-term changes the shortage would force.

“We ultimately figure out ways to work around that issue, automate, replace that work,” he said. “And then when the unemployment benefits end and these people want to re-enter the workforce, the jobs aren’t there.”

Employers at assisted living centers, gas stations and restaurants in Metro Detroit, the Upper Peninsula and mid-Michigan related similar experiences.

Glenn Stevens, executive director for MICHAuto, acknowledged that unemployment was heightening worker concerns, but argued there were “pinch points” in the labor situation even before the pandemic, due to the declining birth rate and child care issues. Supply chain issues caused by the pandemic also were causing some slowdowns and production fluctuations.

“This is not a short-term issue,” Stevens said. “We have a responsibility to fix the structural issues that the state has as we look long-term.”

View original article here 

MICHauto Joined XL Fleet in Celebrating Launch of Michigan Fleet Electrification Technology Center

On Wednesday, June 9, MICHauto joined in celebrating the launch of XL Fleet’s Michigan Fleet Electrification Technology Center. MICHauto’s Executive Director Glenn Stevens Jr. was in attendance at the grand opening of the center in Wixom, Michigan. MICHauto supported XL Fleet on the facility expansion, as part of their work to expand and grow Michigan’s signature industry.

“MICHauto is very pleased to welcome XL Fleet to the Michigan automotive and technology community,” said Stevens. “XL Fleet has strategically located in the densest cluster of next-generation electrification technology, engineering, and advanced manufacturing in the world. The opportunity to utilize the talent, infrastructure, and quality of life across our state is unique to Michigan, and MICHauto looks forward to working with them to support their company’s growth.“

Read the full press release from XL Fleet.


BOSTON, June 9, 2021 – XL Fleet Corp. (NYSE: XL) (“XL Fleet” or the “Company”), a leader in fleet electrification solutions for commercial and municipal fleets, today celebrated the grand opening of its Fleet Electrification Technology Center in Wixom, MI, with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other legislative leaders of the state in attendance. Governor Whitmer joined XL Fleet CEO Dimitri Kazarinoff, Founder & President Tod Hynes, CTO and VP of Engineering Mike Kenhard, Wixom Mayor Patrick Beagle, and Michigan Economic Development Corporation Executive VP Josh Hundt in a press conference and ribbon cutting ceremony at the new facility. In addition to the ribbon cutting ceremony, Governor Whitmer and XL Fleet executives offered remarks highlighting the importance of expanding the electrification of the commercial fleet industry while XL Fleet showcased its latest hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric drive solutions for popular vehicles from General Motors, Ford and Isuzu.

The formal unveiling of the Fleet Electrification Technology Center, which the Company first announced in March 2021, highlighted XL Fleet’s plans to bring new green transportation jobs to Michigan, contributing to the state’s commitment to sustainability under Governor Whitmer. It was noted during the ceremony that the new facility currently includes 26 full time Michigan employees, including more than one dozen who have been hired since the beginning of 2021. The Company plans to expand its engineering team by 50% in 2021, with more than 50 jobs expected to be added at the facility over the next three years by capitalizing on the location’s strategic access to a wealth of automotive and commercial vehicle engineering talent within the region.

As the Biden administration continues to prioritize and promote the advancement of electric transportation, XL Fleet is positioned to play a valuable role in accelerating the adoption of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles, as well as charging infrastructure, energy management and electrification as a service solutions for commercial fleets across the state of Michigan and the United States in the coming years.

As XL Fleet’s fourth U.S. location, the Fleet Electrification Technology Center is a state-of-the-art, nearly 25,000 square foot facility designed to help the Company more rapidly expand its suite of commercial fleet electrification solutions while meeting the growing demand for vehicle electrification throughout North America.

“The grand opening of our Fleet Electrification Technology Center in Michigan marks a milestone for XL Fleet as we expand our footprint into this highly strategic location, positioning us to add capacity to the exceptional talent we already have in-house,” said XL Fleet CEO Dimitri Kazarinoff. “It is an honor to be joined by Governor Whitmer and other officials to help celebrate and inaugurate our first facility located in the country’s top region for automotive engineering innovation.”

XL Fleet Founder & President Tod Hynes added, “XL Fleet continues to reach milestones with our proven and growing product suite, strong strategic partnerships and world-class talent that will be enhanced through our new Michigan Fleet Electrification Technology Center. These milestones put XL Fleet in a unique position to not only capitalize on the industry’s shift to electrification, but to continue to help drive it.”

“This investment by XL Fleet will create nearly 50 good-paying, high-skill jobs and help us continue our economic jumpstart and put Michigan back to work,” said Governor Whitmer. “The new facility reinforces our reputation as the place that put the world on wheels, and a leader in the future of mobility and electrification. We’re excited to welcome XL Fleet to Michigan and look forward to the pathbreaking innovations that will be created right here in our state.”

XL Fleet qualified for a Michigan state incentive of up to $400,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) for the leased facility, a grant designed to encourage expansion into the state among growing businesses. “XL Fleet’s new R&D facility will drive new advancements in future mobility and further demonstrate that Michigan is the place where manufacturing and technology converge,” said MEDC Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Vice President Josh Hundt. “This project aligns with our strategic focus on growing the mobility and electrification ecosystem in Michigan and fostering high-wage job growth. We’re pleased to work with our local partners to support XL Fleet’s investment.”

In addition, XL Fleet worked with MICHauto, the state’s automotive and mobility cluster association, on expanding into the facility. “MICHauto is very pleased to welcome XL Fleet to the Michigan automotive and technology community,” said Glenn Stevens, Executive Director for MICHauto. “XL Fleet has strategically located in the densest cluster of next-generation electrification technology, engineering, and advanced manufacturing in the world. The opportunity to utilize the talent, infrastructure, and quality of life across our state is unique to Michigan, and MICHauto looks forward to working with them to support their company’s growth. “


Press release originally posted on XL Fleet: xlfleet.com/news-and-events/news-releases/xl-fleet-celebrates-michigan-fleet-electrification-technology-center-with-ribbon-cutting-event-featuri

CADIA Connects: Bringing the Majority Along

On Tuesday, June 8, the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement (CADIA) hosted CADIA Connects. During this unique session, Cheryl Thompson, founder and chief executive officer of CADIA, brought together a panel of executives from across the automotive ecosystem to talk candidly about their DE&I journey and how to bring the majority along. MICHauto’s Executive Director Glenn Stevens Jr. joined Laura Ann Preston, global director of talent management for Magna Exteriors, John Major, regional vice president of Midwest Operations at Achates Power, and Andrew Schreck, co-founder of Comprehensive Carbon Impact, in sharing insights with more than 50 participants.

The automotive and mobility industry is making a concerted effort to be more inclusive, something that has been a long time in the making. While each company is at their own place in the journey towards diversity, equity, and inclusion, how do we make sure everyone is included and that the majority is buying in?

Key take-aways from the conversation included:

  • Be thoughtful about your messaging and set up each conversation properly.
  • Admit if you need help on your DE&I journey and start where you are.
  • Cultivate a leadership team that is empathetic.
  • Do your own research.
  • Recognize that DE&I is a journey and not a box to check.

It starts with being thoughtful about our messaging, Preston noted, and never trying to exclude someone in the process. Fear is one element that often holds people back from having the candid conversations that are needed to move DE&I actions forward. There are ways to set the conversation up right at the beginning to ask open questions. You can start with saying, “I’m not going to get this right, but I have a question and am genuinely curious.”

Stevens agreed that to develop a workplace that looks the way the world looks, we have to want to change. This is an inflection point for the automotive and mobility industry, and change is needed. Watching this happen in the industry is astounding, because traditionally the industry has stayed much the same.

“Our world is changing fast,” said Stevens. “If you don’t figure out how to take the upward trajectory on diversity, equity, and inclusion, then you will die. Our industry has the opportunity to grow by being more diverse.”

More than just changing thought processes, Major emphasized the importance of empathy as perhaps one of the most important leadership skills. Noted Major, when you look around a meeting and there is one person of color, take a hard look at what that is like. Really make a personal commitment and challenge yourself to understand what it feels like to be that person. It is about putting yourself aside and cultivating relationships beyond your sphere of comfort.

Added Schreck, there is also an important consideration for the psychological toll it takes on people who are asked questions about their unique cultures and ethnicities. He recommends doing some research on your own. With the vast number of resources available and content on social media, it can be easy to educate yourself on some of the challenges in the workplace to improve your own understanding.

In conclusion, Thompson reflected that this industry is really good at getting in, getting it done, and moving on.

“You can’t do this with diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s not a destination. It’s a journey,” said Thompson.

New Chamber Poll Provides Key Insights On Automobility Industry Labor Shortage

The Detroit Regional Chamber released findings from a new statewide poll of registered voters in Michigan that provides insight and data on how Michiganders have reacted to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the ongoing public health and economic challenges, and critical political issues facing the state. The findings of the poll addressed the ongoing labor shortage in Michigan’s signature automotive and mobility industries.

What’s Causing the Ongoing Labor Shortage

Michigan businesses, including those in the automotive and mobility sectors, report significant staffing challenges as the economic recovery accelerates. In Feb. 2020, unemployment as at 3.5% in Michigan, and labor force participation was at 61.6%. Unemployment is now at 4.9% (better than the national average of 6.1%), but the labor force participation is at 58.7%, which places Michigan at a troubling 42nd in the nation.

Many businesses automatically point to the generous unemployment benefits as the reason. While the survey finds this is likely a contributing factor, it appears to be less of a factor than some may think. Respondents gave multiple reasons for the continued barriers to finding employment.

  • 22.9% said they did not feel safe or cited COVID-19 safety.
  • 14.3% said it was a lack of good pay or benefits.
  • 11.4% cited their age or health.
  • 11.4% said they have not yet been called back to old jobs.
  • 8.6% cited general problems in finding open positions.
  • 8.6% cited the need for child care.
  • 17.1% did not have an answer.

 

 

In a mini focus group of poll participants who were employed before COVID-19, but are now out of work, only one in 15 respondents cited unemployment benefits as the reason for not returning to work. The Chamber survey found that 22.2% of those employed before COVID-19, but who were no longer looking for a job were over the age of 50 (13.6% 65 years or older). This tracks with data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis that shows labor force participation of workers over the age of 55 has fallen 2% since the start of the pandemic, resulting in two million fewer workers nationwide.

This decline is a new trend in labor force participation and did not happen during the 2008 Great Recession. In fact, from the end of 2007 to the end of 2009, there was a 1% increase in workers over the age of 55. This trend has a particularly harmful impact on the mobility industry, where National Association of Manufacturers’ data showed that nearly one and four manufacturing workers are age 55 or older before the pandemic.

Finding Workers Now and Solving the Labor Shortage

Companies nationwide are attracting skilled workers through retention incentives that include flex schedules, paid vacation time, family events, shift work, and competitive pay. However, in a highly competitive labor market, these incentives are only part of the solution. The Chamber and MICHauto have been advocating state leaders to adopt our 100K By Labor Day Back to Work plan, which would use federal stimulus dollars to incentivize unemployed workers to find a job and help employees with training and vaccination incentives.

Attracting workers this year is a critical first step to ensure that Michigan’s economic recovery is sustainable. However, to secure long-term competitiveness in the global marketplace, our state needs to address the education and skills gap. The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) estimates that 75% of the jobs of the future will require a post-secondary degree. However, only 48.6% of Michigan adults currently have a two-year, four-year, or professional certificate. Employers have a significant role to play in helping to close that gap through high school apprenticeship programs, supporting fast-track training programs at local community and technical colleges and on-the-job training programs.

With the industry’s long-term future in mind, MICHauto was proud to partner with the Jackson Area Manufacturing Association to announce Michigan’s first Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program. The FAME program provides students a two-year, debt-free Associate degree to equip students with the skills required for the rapidly evolving manufacturing industry.

Solving the state’s labor shortage requires a nuanced understanding of the causes and a commitment from political and business leaders to invest in talent attraction.

Emerging Automotive Professional: Toyota’s Vanessa Antar

Connect with Vanessa on LinkedIn. 


Getting into Automotive 

What inspired you to go into the automotive and mobility field?  

After completing two internships/co-op terms with Toyota I knew right away I wanted to be in research and development (R&D) at Toyota. My second co-op term exposed me to the world of design, and I could not wait to graduate so I could dive right in.

Did you grow up with family members in the automotive industry?  

Growing up, I was always surrounded by my uncles who have a huge passion for cars, but I had no idea back then that this was the industry I was going to end up in. I honestly didn’t know until I tried it. This is why I highly recommend getting internship opportunities as soon as possible so you can get a feel for the kind of work you would be doing after graduating.

Growing up, what was your impression of the automotive industry? How would you have described the industry? 

I grew up outside of the U.S., so I had a completely different image of the automotive industry. At the time, it felt like such an unattainable world and I didn’t even think I would be able to make it there. My country didn’t have automotive opportunities, so it was honestly not on my horizon until I got into college in the U.S.

What college did you attend, what was your major, and why did you choose that path?   

I attended the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago where I majored in mechanical engineering. I always loved math and physics growing up so becoming an engineer was a no brainer to me when I was applying for college. I then went through the process of elimination when it came to which kind of engineering I wanted to study. I decided to go with mechanical engineering due to the broad scope. You can really end up in any industry you want which is great for someone who didn’t have a clear image of what she wanted to do after graduation. I didn’t know I was going to end up in automotive until I did my first co-op/internship at Toyota which was a huge turning point during my undergraduate time.


Automotive Career: Then and Now 

What opportunities did you have in college that allowed you to explore or start your career in automotive, including any co-ops or internships?  

In college, I was very involved in organizations like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), where I had the opportunity to attend conferences that hosted career fairs. Through networking and career fairs I was able to land my first internship/co-op at Toyota and kick start my automotive career. My university’s career fairs didn’t have a lot of companies looking for mechanical engineers so attending these big conference career fairs had a huge impact on my career.

What is your role now? 

I am a design engineer at Toyota in the Body Design division in the Research and Development Headquarters in Michigan. I’ve been in body design for six years now.

What projects and programs do you work on? 

I’ve been designing and engineering parts and sub-assemblies for upcoming vehicles. For example, if you look at recent Tacoma, you will see the radiator grilles that I designed (this was my first project). I now work on the body of the trucks, which is the structure that protects occupants during vehicle crashes.

Describe a typical day.  

There’s no typical day for me but I will say working on a project in design is a two-to-three-year commitment. Our responsibility is to take styling data prepared by our design studio and turn it into an engineered sub-system of parts. We start our design work by gathering all the inputs and targets we need to incorporate. We then go through iterations of feedback from all stakeholders and keep evolving our design until we reach production-level data that satisfies all requirements from every stakeholder. Once parts go into production, we go through multiple vehicle builds where everything comes together on actual vehicles. This phase is very important to confirm all design intents and quickly resolve any issues that come up before the vehicle goes into mass production. Working with so many hardworking, dedicated, and smart people from all different divisions is one of the best parts of my job. We are all working together as one team with one goal which is to provide the customer the best product possible. I’m always in awe of what it takes to design and build a car.

This entire design process requires many skills on daily basis, including:

  • Maintaining good communication skills and being proactive about resolving issues to make sure we meet all necessary targets by the set deadlines.
  • Collaborating with many other groups (other design groups, evaluation groups for safety/crash testing, suppliers, manufacturing, etc.).
  • Reporting engineering and technical issues to upper management to get decisions and agreement on certain directions (here is where you can work on your presentation, public speaking, and communication skills).
  • Working in design also requires a lot of computer aided design (CAD) work from making section studies and 3D data to technical drawings.

All these skills can be learned through project experience but are at the core of every design job.

Where do you see yourself in five years?  

I love growing my technical skills and design capabilities but in five years I want to be more on the project management side.


Advice for Young Students 

Knowing what you know now, if you could give your younger self one tip or piece of advice, what would it be?  

It’s okay for work to be your number one priority, but don’t forget to live your life and make time for the important people in your life.

What advice do you have for high school students who are interested in automotive, but unsure if it’s the career for them? 

If possible, try to shadow an engineer at an automotive company or at least set up a virtual meet up. Ask as many questions as possible and be curious (there’s no right or wrong question)! If you don’t know where to start, listen to the engineer’s story and details about their careers.

There are so many different jobs you can have in automotive so getting internships throughout your time in college is very important to help you understand if that environment is a good fit for you. I had the amazing opportunity of hosting a high school student who was interested in automotive but wasn’t 100% sure if it was the right fit for her. We got to spend a day talking all about design and what it’s like to be an engineer in automotive. She is now a sophomore pursuing her degree in mechanical engineering and will be looking for opportunities in automotive.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?  

I’ve been given MANY but here are the best:

  • Think of your career as a marathon, not a race.
  • To be successful you need to be like the “energizer bunny” because you will fail at times, but you will bounce back.
  • There are two main currencies that will drive your career: your performance and your relationships and connections.
  • Innovation isn’t always creating something brand new. It’s about applying something that already exists in a brand-new way.
  • Don’t communicate to inform, communicate to influence.

What do you love about working in the automotive industry (and specifically the automotive industry in Michigan)?  

What I love the most is how rewarding it feels to see your designs on actual vehicles on the road. Every vehicle that I worked on that leaves the dealership will have a bunch of parts that I designed. This makes all the hard work and long hours worth it! I also feel very proud to be a female in a male-dominated industry and would love to encourage more girls to pursue careers in STEM and join me on this journey.

Do you participate in any organizations outside of work? Or have any hobbies (unrelated to automotive)? Do you feel the work-life balance in the auto industry allows you to continue these passions?  

I have many hobbies and interests outside of work like powerlifting, being a plant mom, traveling, brewing craft coffee, and all things fashion. Work is currently my number one priority, and the hours tend to be long especially around deadlines, however, this teaches me to appreciate the down time I have. It’s important to make time for our hobbies because work doesn’t end. There’s always more work that we can be doing but in order to produce our best output it’s on us to set those boundaries and tend to the things we care about outside of work and create some sort of balance.

Someone I look up to at work once told me we have three main things we give our energy to: work, relationships (parents, family, partners, etc.), and ourselves. We can only focus on two of these three at a time, so one of them will fall behind. This balance needs to shift based on current priorities and what needs more of our time versus what can be placed on hold for a bit.

Emerging Automotive Professional: HELLA’s Vikram Rao

Connect with Vikram on LinkedIn.


Getting into Auto 

What inspired you to go into the automotive and mobility field?   

I was interested in machines and mechanisms from a very young age. The biggest piece of machinery when I was young was my dad’s motorcycle.

Did you grow up with family members in the automotive industry?   

None.

What interests led you to consider a career in automotive?   

Automobiles have always fascinated me. I always saw them as complex piece of machinery that people rely on for their day-to-day needs. I wanted to partake in the process of making them more customer-centric and accessible.

When were you first exposed to automotive?   

When I was about 3 years old, my parents gifted me a tricycle and I was hooked. I used to spend the majority of the day riding it.

Growing up, what was your impression of the automotive industry? How would you have described the industry?   

I thought the auto industry was just research – people in white coats, in the lab, building things. In reality, it’s a lot different. It’s just common people collaborating to make things happen on time (almost).

What college did you attend, what was your major, and why did you choose that path?   

I attended the Dayananda Sagar College of Engineering (affiliated to VTU) in Bangalore, India. My major was Mechanical Engineering, and it was the closest to Automobile Engineering. I wanted to get into the auto industry, and this was the best way to do it.

Do you have additional degrees, training, or education? (I.e., graduate degree, MBA, etc.)    

I have a Master’s in Automotive Systems Engineering from UofM Dearborn.

What opportunities did you have in college that allowed you to explore or start your career in automotive, including any co-ops or internships?   

  • An internship at a Hyundai Service station helped me get hands-on training and taught the basics of automotive maintenance and servicing.
  • My internship at Ashok Leyland (well-known Commercial trucks manufacturer in India) helped me understand the basics of manufacturing processes.
  • SAE BAJA was an event where we had to build an ATV and participate in an endurance race. This helped me understand the fundamentals of vehicle building and planning.
  • FSAE is a complex version of BAJA. This was purely electric. I was less afraid of EVs after this!

Automotive Career: Then and Now 

What was your first job post-college? Please share any lessons learned.    

I was a design engineer for a rather complex project. It was a fair balance of designing, testing prototypes in the lab, breaking and building things. I had a lot to learn in terms of communication, dealing with tough situations, etc.

How did you transition from your first job to where you are now? What roles did you hold along the way? What projects or opportunities were critical in this process?   

I have been lucky to have had three different types of roles in three companies on two continents. I try to take up different roles to be well rounded and learn various skills in the process. This also prevents me from being bored. Jack of many trades, master of none.

Have you made any major career changes? If so, please explain your thoughts and reasoning.   

I have mostly stuck to engineering so far. Like mentioned previously, I have had three different positions and they have all taught me different things. I don’t think it’s a major career change though. For the most part I have stuck to automotive.

What is your role now?   

Quality Development Lead.

What projects and programs do you work on?   

Mostly on electronic components for different OEMs.

Describe a typical day.   

Mostly running from one meeting to another. Collaborating with team members and chalking out a plan to get tasks done, which sometimes means blocking my calendar to avoid additional meetings to get my job done.

Where do you see yourself in five years?   

I would like to continue to expand my horizons by taking up different roles and see how far I can go.


Advice for Young Students 

Knowing what you know now, if you could give your younger self one tip or piece of advice, what would it be?   

Never be afraid to try new things. It’s better to fail now than later. Be the hardest working person in the room.

What advice do you have for high school students who are interested in automotive, but unsure if it’s the career for them?  

As automobiles get more and more complex, there is scope for everyone to make a difference.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?   

Take more chances when you can. A senior engineer who was on the verge or retirement was unhappy that he couldn’t take too many risks in his career due to personal reasons. He didn’t think of it much back then, but he thought differently when we spoke. We can all think of many such situations. Make conscious efforts to make the best out of your career.

What do you love about working in the automotive industry (and specifically the automotive industry in Michigan)?  

We are experiencing a revolution in the EV world much like the internet boom in the 1990s. This is a great time to be a part of the future. Michigan is the best place to be as Big Three are heavily invested in mobility, electrification, etc.

Do you participate in any organizations outside of work? Or have any hobbies (unrelated to automotive)?  

I used to volunteer at an animal shelter. I also take part in motorcycle track days. My job offers me a good balance. Having a good team and manager helps greatly in this regard.

Emerging Automotive Professional: CSP’s Micco Manocchio

Connect with Micco on LinkedIn.


Getting into Automotive 

What inspired you to go into the automotive and mobility field?   

I’ve loved cars since I was a child, and had the mind for anything mechanical (Legos, remote control cars, small-scale models). The auto industry in Metro Detroit seemed like a great avenue once I got older and figured out what I wanted to do.

Did you grow up with family members in the automotive industry?   

Quite the opposite. My father is a contractor and my mother works in international logistics.

What interests led you to consider a career in automotive?   

Thinking of working on products that I see driven down the road every day gave me a high sense of gratitude and fulfillment in what I do, and the drive to always perform at my best.

When were you first exposed to automotive?   

After college, my first job was at Ford Motor Company.

Growing up, what was your impression of the automotive industry? How would you have described the industry?   

My impressions were always that of a secret VIP club, where only a select few are allowed privilege. In a sense that is still the case, but much more approachable than originally thought of.

What college did you attend, what was your major and why did you choose that path?   

I am originally from Buffalo, New York, so I attended the State University at Buffalo (a.k.a. UB – go Bulls!). Fortunately, I’ve always had my mind set on engineering, so I was always enrolled in the four-year B.S. Mechanical Engineering program. 

Do you have additional degrees, training, or education? (I.e., graduate degree, MBA, etc.)   

None other than some trainings received on the job from the various positions I’ve held. Some of these things include Design for Six Sigma, FDM (3-D) printing, even down to a forklift license.

What opportunities did you have in college that allowed you to explore or start your career in automotive, including any co-ops or internships?   

Unfortunately, I did not have any internships. But to make up for that, I enrolled in a few different engineering related clubs within the University to show my interest and willingness to put in extra time for more experience.


Automotive Career: Then and Now 

What was your first job post-college? Please share any lessons learned.    

My first job was at Ford Motor Company as an AVBOM Analyst. The job was not engineering-related by much, but I took the position hoping to open the door within Ford. Although I didn’t branch out within Ford, that experience allowed me to network and gain some experience within the industry for my future positions. Ironically, some of the Microsoft Excel skills I learned from that position I still use today.

How did you transition from your first job to where you are now? What roles did you hold along the way? What projects or opportunities were critical in this process?   

I used resources like Monster.com, LinkedIn, Indeed.com, and applied to various positions that allowed me to network with recruiters. These recruiters would then call me for phone interviews, and eventually led to me finding a Prototype Build Engineer role at FCA (now Stellantis). That position exposed me to the more program management level of engineering with sending out request for quote, prototype tooling vs. production tooling, timing, and supplier sourcing. The role at FCA was critical in finding my current role now since a person I worked with told me there was an opening at Continental Structural Plastics.

Have you made any major career changes? If so, please explain your thoughts and reasoning.   

So far in the last 5 years, I haven’t made any significant changes. CSP has been great place to work with priceless experience gained, and I have been promoted during my time here.

What is your role now?   

I am currently a Senior Product Engineer.

What projects and programs do you work on?   

I have worked on several General Motors Co., Stellantis, and Ford programs. My most recent project was on the GM Corvette C8 convertible, where CSP manufactures and ships the Tonneau cover and Decklid for the retractable hardtop system to the General Motors Bowling Green assembly plant.

Describe a typical day.   

A typical day for me starts with reviewing my emails and categorizing them based on what needs to be done. I will then handle working on items that are urgent, then items that have more lead time (i.e., take two or three days, or up to a week to complete). In between that, I will attend meetings that can be either business- or commercial-related, or technically-related to the product I am working on and keep track of any action items needed to be completed as a result from those meetings.

Where do you see yourself in five years?   

I see myself in engineering management. I can handle stressful situations calmly, communicate what needs to be done, and provide direction to various groups within the organization. I believe it is something I will excel at.


Advice for Young Students 

Knowing what you know now, if you could give your younger self one tip or piece of advice, what would it be?   

Finding a job is tedious. There were a lot of dead ends, but it’s one of those things where you have to be consistent and keep applying to what you find. I’d say if I applied to 10 jobs, one or two would lead to a phone interview and hopefully an in-person interview, and eight to nine would lead to nothing.

Don’t be afraid to take some risks. Moving out to a different state after graduating to find a job was a big risk, and allowed not only my career to flourish, but also me as an individual. 

What advice do you have for high school students who are interested in automotive, but unsure if it’s the career for them?   

It really would depend on what you’re interested in, as there are so many aspects to automotive as an industry. Supply chain logistics can be one of the most complex sides of the industry, and if that excites you, then perhaps working in a warehouse (as I did during college) will expose you to the logistics and accounting side of delivering products. If HR interests you, there are companies who have recruiters in house that are on social media reaching out to people for opportunities. If sales interest you, you can take some sale associate experience at a retail store and apply it to let’s say an internship at a company reaching out for quotes or bids on future business opportunities. The sky’s the limit on the different areas and facets within the industry.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?  

The five P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Always plan ahead to achieve the best outcome, no matter what it is (vacation, work, hobbies, nutrition, etc.)

What do you love about working in the automotive industry (and specifically the automotive industry in Michigan)?  

The fast-paced environment sometimes brings out my best work. I do well under pressure. The industry also allows my creative side to flourish, as there are many complex problems that require out-of –the-box problem solving to come to a solution or proposal that will be implemented for either design or manufacturing.

Do you participate in any organizations outside of work? Or have any hobbies (unrelated to automotive)? Do you feel the work-life balance in the auto industry allows you to continue these passions?   

To satisfy some of my mechanical nature, I have an old motorcycle where I’ve rebuilt the carburetor and exhaust to allow it to run better. So, I enjoy spending time working on that. I am also big into fitness, so I dedicate five days a week to working out. During times of product launches or prototype build events, time was very scarce since those events require a lot of working time. However, I was able to manage my time appropriately and come up with ways to balance my work-life time. Family and relationships are always number one, and lines have to be drawn no matter the circumstances at work.

Emerging Automotive Professional: CSP’s Jack Siwajek

Connect with Jack on Linkedin.


Getting into Automotive 

What inspired you to go into the automotive and mobility field?   

I studied materials science engineering in college with the aim of doing graduate work in tissue engineering, specifically manufacturing artificial organs. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit during my senior year of undergraduate studies, I was unable to find research positions under the circumstances. Luckily, materials are everywhere, and I was trained to be a jack-of-all-trades. I had previously interned as a product engineer at CSP and was given the opportunity to return and support the birth of a new program there.

Did you grow up with family members in the automotive industry?  

Yes, my dad has been in the automotive plastics industry since his graduate studies.

What interests led you to consider a career in automotive?   

Mostly a need to flex my engineering and communication muscles until the world opens. Even though automotive is not my intended field of work, it is still a very interesting environment that benefits greatly from young, fresh minds. With the innovations and refinements to previous solutions made the old way, young engineers thrive by challenging old thoughts and making changes that move the industry forward.

When were you first exposed to automotive?   

I had never taken particular interest in automotive until my college roommates introduced me to their passion. They loved Formula 1 and performance vehicles, so I was exposed to a lot of systems that are maintained with incredible tolerances to combat the forces of nature and the limits of technology. My mind loves to upgrade and fine tune and seeing a world where those are the priorities had me interested.

Growing up, what was your impression of the automotive industry? How would you have described the industry?   

Coming from a family with five hockey players and frequent travel, my top priorities in a car were: 1. How many hockey bags can it hold? and 2. How comfortable will I be on the long rides to tournaments? The auto industry gave plenty of options, but I noticed early that every company just puts slight variations on a base template for each vehicle class. The word I would use is “formulaic.”

What college did you attend, what was your major and why did you choose that path?   

I attended Purdue University where I received a BSE in Materials Science Engineering. I intended and still intend to pursue research opportunities in tissue engineering, specifically manufacturing artificial organs. I have always had a mind geared for finding problems or deficiencies and trying every solution I can to better them. My high school anatomy class opened my eyes to the fact that human bodies unfortunately take on tons of problems and deficiencies. I hope to remedy those issues so that more people can live full and healthy lives. 

Do you have additional degrees, training, or education? (I.e., graduate degree, MBA, etc.)   

I also have a minor in Spanish. My high school teachers were wonderful, allowing me to enter Purdue conversationally fluent. So, I decided it was worth getting a degree to prove it.

What opportunities did you have in college that allowed you to explore or start your career in automotive, including any co-ops or internships?   

I did two summer internships at CSP, one after my freshman year and the other after my sophomore year. I worked on the one marine program at our company, but the work structure was the same as the auto side. There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of, making sure to follow up with customers, the different departments within CSP, and our suppliers. As a detail-oriented teen with ridiculous summer energy I was able to knock out way too much work for an intern, but I felt accomplished because I got to see solid number results. Dates on the timeline move up, money I saved or found for the company, tolerances we were able to achieve. The experience pressed all the right buttons in my brain as an engineer.


Automotive Career: Then and Now 

What was your first job post-college? Please share any lessons learned.    

This is my first job post-college. So far, I’ve learned that engineers get compensated very well for stuff my brain enjoys doing, specifically organizing, communicating, and solving problems.

What is your role now?   

I am a product engineer for a key customer working on designing a next generation version of our previous model. I am taking all our lessons learned to build a list of things to fix and prioritizing that list to create the best product for the end user, while making it cost efficient for the customer and our manufacturing.

What projects and programs do you work on?   

I work for one of our largest customer programs, the Jeep Hardtop. We design the hard top based on the functional objectives provided by Stellantis and try and marry our product to their body.

Describe a typical day.   

The typical day evolves greatly over the development cycle of the product. In this early stage, we are collecting our lessons learned from the previous iteration as well as the changes to the body that Stellantis provides us. We align our visions by meeting weekly with updates to the design, test results that were run on the components and systems, and making sure resources are allocated appropriately among our teams. In the days between those customer meetings, I am:

  • Contacting our suppliers to make sure their components marry to our part and perform adequately.
  • Communicating with our other teams (design, manufacturing, R&D) to make sure we are on track to design a product that meets the customer requirements that we are able to mass produce without many difficulties to our manufacturing team.
  • Once a design is done, we will begin making test parts to validate our design. I will be supporting the testing by making sure we check off the laundry list of capabilities provided by Stellantis to make sure their customers are safe and have a long-lasting product they are happy with. Any deficiencies I see during testing will be documented, and I will work with the necessary teams to address the issue, whether it is in our design, our material, or our manufacturing process.

Where do you see yourself in five years?   

I plan to fully support the program I am on until production is kicked off and all the initial bugs are squashed. Once I am happy with how it is running, I will pursue a graduate degree in tissue engineering so that I can make solutions that help people live happy, healthy lives.


Advice for Young Students 

Knowing what you know now, if you could give your younger self one tip or piece of advice, what would it be?   

School teaches you how to learn and solve problems. Grades and heavy involvement are great things to maintain, but health needs to be first. Know what you can handle and ask for help when you need it. There is nothing wrong with saying “no” to something you cannot do. 

What advice do you have for high school students who are interested in automotive, but unsure if it’s the career for them?   

There are plenty of opportunities to test the waters. Get a job with a mechanic, watch YouTube videos that are informative, contact creators and people in the industry with questions you have, get an internship.

If you do not have one of those opportunities in high school, engineering is a great place to start in your college search. There is no “car” major in college that defines what you do for the rest of your life. Mechanical and materials science engineers are needed in every industry, so if you get to graduation and you have changed your mind about automotive, that is ok. You have a ticket that can get you into any industry you want. Nothing is set in stone.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?   

Focus on your health above all. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or you’ll never pull an all nighter to finish an assignment, but if you put a focus on all aspects of your health, you’ll be able to complete your work more efficiently and effectively. Communicate, ask for help. No one is perfect, and you aren’t vulnerable for realizing that.

What do you love about working in the automotive industry (and specifically the automotive industry in Michigan)?  

There is a lot more depth to automotive than someone unfamiliar with the industry may realize. There are considerations for every possible interaction a customer has with a vehicle, from comfort to safety to accessibility. For every component. And all those components must work in harmony, so inputs from every team that are working on each individual system are required to make the best product. Compromises are made, but so many ideas go into each system to create what you see on the road.

Michigan is a wonderful state with an abundance of fun to be had. Our climate allows for pretty much any hobby or interest to be explored. It is a hub that has a great variety of people that work together and form ideas from the partner industries around them.

Do you participate in any organizations outside of work? Or have any hobbies (unrelated to automotive)? Do you feel the work-life balance in the auto industry allows you to continue these passions?   

I am a lifelong athlete; my life has been driven by team sports that helped me become the communicator I am today. In hockey, cross country, and rowing I have been able to flex and grow my teamworking abilities, complementing the skills I need to be a great engineer.

I am also a PC gamer; I build my own computers and fine tune every aspect of them to make my experience marginally better. Settings menus and forums are my best friends.

Work uses up a good amount of my energy, but once I am done with my workday, I am free to do what I please. I do not lie awake at night worrying.

Emerging Automotive Professional: CSP’s Evan Freeman-Gibb

Connect with Evan on LinkedIn.


Getting into Automotive  

What inspired you to go into the automotive and mobility field?   

I knew I wanted to study engineering since I was a little kid playing with Legos, but it was really after graduating with an undergraduate degree with an aerospace focus and surveying the local job market that I realized automotive would be a more accessible option.

Did you grow up with family members in the automotive industry?   

Coming from Windsor, the “Automotive Capital of Canada,” everybody knows someone working in the automotive industry. In my case, my father has worked at “The Plant” (Chrysler/Daimler-Chrysler/FCA/Stellantis Windsor Assembly) for decades, so I’ve been exposed to automotive for as long as I can remember.

What interests led you to consider a career in automotive?   

A passion to find out how things work (often by taking them apart) made automotive a natural fit, since cars and trucks are some of the most mechanically complex things we interact with in a typical day.

When were you first exposed to automotive?  

One of my earliest memories of the auto industry is touring the Windsor Assembly Plant during an open house many years ago. Seeing all the production equipment in that massive factory was really cool for a young kid – and I still think that stuff is cool as an adult!

Growing up, what was your impression of the automotive industry? How would you have described the industry?   

In a word, everywhere. Growing up in an automotive town, it was normal to see car haulers driving down the city streets, lots full of vans ready to be shipped around the world, and hardly any foreign-made cars on the road. It was only when I was older and spent some time outside of the area that I realized how deeply ingrained the auto industry – and particularly the “Big Three” – was in my everyday life.

What college did you attend, what was your major, and why did you choose that path?   

University of Windsor, Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering – Aerospace Option. After undergrad I decided that an automotive focus might be more useful in the Metro Detroit/Windsor area job market so that was my focus for graduate school.

Do you have additional degrees, training, or education? (I.e., graduate degree, MBA, etc.)    

University of Windsor, Master of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering. My thesis was focused on automotive composites manufacturing processes.

What opportunities did you have in college that allowed you to explore or start your career in automotive, including any co-ops or internships?   

The engineering co-op program at the University of Windsor exposed me to many different roles, but they all tied back to the auto industry. From working in maintenance at an auto parts warehouse, to writing technical reports on R&D activities in an assembly plant, to assisting with machining activities at a tool and die shop, these all helped prepare me for a career in automotive and showed me just how wide ranging the field can be.


Automotive Career: Then and Now 

What was your first job post-college?   

Aside from co-op jobs and internships during my university career, my first job was at CSP in my current role. 

What is your role now?   

I am a process engineer for the Advanced Technology Development team, working on developing production processes and materials for a number of exciting projects related to next-generation fiber-reinforced composites and vehicles.

What projects and programs do you work on?   

A few of my current projects include honeycomb core composites for class-A roof and body panels, multi-material flame-retardant battery box systems for EVs, and lightweight thermoplastic hybrid composites for appearance applications.

Describe a typical day.   

Every day is a little bit different. Since we run a lean team of engineers and technicians at our Advanced Technologies Center, we all wear a number of hats. One day I could be running presses and equipment or making a run of prototype parts, and the next day I could be conducting mechanical testing and analysis on some new materials. There’s never a dull moment here!

Where do you see yourself in five years?  

Ideally still working in the automotive composite materials field. Fiber-reinforced plastics have such a wide variety of new applications just in the automotive industry alone that I don’t think I’ll be bored for a very long time.


Advice for Young Students

Knowing what you know now, if you could give your younger self one tip or piece of advice, what would it be?   

Learn another language. Automotive is a global industry with supply chains stretching around the world, so the ability to communicate with others from various countries is a definite asset. Luckily, the technical drawing methods and scientific concepts you learn in engineering school are sort of like a universal language, so this helps too.

What advice do you have for high school students who are interested in automotive, but unsure if it’s the career for them?   

Give it a try! Automotive is such a wide-ranging field that there’s bound to be something interesting for everyone. Plus, even if it turns out to not be the right fit for you, the skills and knowledge you’ve developed in a field as diverse as automotive will set you up great for a career in the field of your choosing.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?  

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” While it may not have been said by Abe Lincoln, it has had a lasting influence on my life and career to date. Regardless of what profession or industry you choose to go into, do the best that you can. If something is worth doing at all then it’s worth doing right.

What do you love about working in the automotive industry (and specifically the automotive industry in Michigan)?  

The ability to work on next-generation vehicles and technologies that will shape the future of transportation is an experience you can’t find in many places other than Michigan’s auto industry. Also, many of the friends I made in college now work in the local auto industry too, so it’s nice to remain close with all those folks and have that shared experience of working in the auto industry.

Do you participate in any organizations outside of work? Or have any hobbies (unrelated to automotive)? Do you feel the work-life balance in the auto industry allows you to continue these passions?  

Outside of work I love to cycle and spend lots of time (and money) putting together bikes to ride around town. The hours in the auto industry aren’t usually too bad, and you’re certainly compensated fairly for your time, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy your life.