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Automotive Industry Reputation: Shifting Student Perception

MICHauto’s Senior Director, Carolyn Sauer, recently spoke with Girish Kotagiri, a high school senior who recently completed an internship with one of the state’s top automotive suppliers. Below, read the first-hand account about how industry perception is transforming among the next generation of talent through hands-on experience.


When you think about the automotive industry, what do you picture? There was a time when I associated the automotive industry with labor-intensive work, done in old manufacturing plants. A lot has changed since I first visited the manufacturing plant floor with my dad.  I’ve now been in the auto industry for 21 years and have seen high-functioning plants with advanced technology. For suppliers and OEMs, it is this firsthand look at manufacturing facilities that really paints the picture of what automotive is today and will be in the future.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing high school senior, Girish Kotagiri, to hear his perspective on the automotive industry. Having interned for a major automotive supplier, Kotagiri’s perception of the industry shifted significantly. In fact, Kotagiri was so impressed by what he saw and learned while working with the company that he is strongly considering a career in automotive. Over the course of his internship, Kotagiri documented his impressions and astute observations in a paper titled, “Automation and AI in Manufacturing.”

As the Michigan automotive and mobility industry faces a talent shortage, the focus must shift to how the industry is perceived and working towards changing that perception. It is important that automotive be depicted as it stands today and moving forward: high-tech, growth oriented, and global. That is something Kotagiri agrees with.

“Before getting experience, I did not realize the depth of the robotics and technology in the industry. I thought of automotive as an older industry. But now I have seen that automotive must continuously evolve and change. That [manufacturers] are changing daily is pretty cool,” said Kotagiri.

So how do we paint this picture of the automotive industry to our community, students, and young professionals, to sustain our advancing industry? Educating our community, accurately branding the industry, and engaging students as young as middle school in automotive tours and industry experiences can make an impact. For Kotagiri, the plant tour and internship were pivotal in his perception of the automotive industry.

“It was really the plant tour that was a turning point. Watching the process of work in the field and seeing the amount of skills required was eye opening,” said Kotagiri. “It was fun to see where different skills may be a fit and watching the manufacturing process bring parts to life.”

Most interesting to Kotagiri in his career consideration of automotive is the infinite scope of what is possible. In only one month, he saw the impact of a simple robotic program on increased efficiency and cost-savings opportunities. Leveraging automation to save time and money frees up resources that could be used towards the continued development of the world’s most complex computer, the automobile.

Some of Kotagiri’s key take-aways highlighted in his article include:

  • The future of automation can create a level playing field for manufacturing across the globe.
  • Continuing automation and development of AI increase overall manufacturing efficiency.
  • Manufacturing automation allows workers to continuously advance their skills.

Click here to read the full article.

For more information on how your company can showcase high-tech capabilities and technology among middle school and high school students, please contact Jenny Orletski-Dehne and ask about our Virtual Discover Auto program. Click here for more details.