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Automotive Roundtable: Forging Pathways to Developing Michigan’s Robust, Diverse Talent Pool

September 21, 2021
More than 100 automotive professionals gathered for MICHauto’s annual Automotive Roundtable at MICHauto on the Island during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference. Kristine Coogan of KPMG set the stage with thought leadership on investing in the talent pipeline process. Brief “Talent Talks” from HELLA’s Madison Weston, OpTech LLC’s Ronia Kruse, Ford Motor Company’s Marjace Miles, and Global Strategic Supply Solution’s Lisa Lunsford, chair of the MICHauto Board of Directors, addressed the need for a pathway to developing a robust and diverse talent pool here in Michigan.

Coogan highlighted that automotive and mobility companies are now competing with tech giants for talent as product innovation moves toward electric vehicles and enablers of autonomous driving. Citing a 2021 KPMG Survey of Automotive HR Executives, Coogan stated that 76% of human resource executives say they are competing for talent with technology companies. With increased competition for talent, automotive and mobility organizations need to tout compelling employment experiences that combine recognition of employee efforts and skills with the connection to making an impact.

HELLA’s Weston, a featured emerging young professional in the Discover Auto: You Drive the Future campaign, talked about the importance of showing young people what the automotive and mobility industry looks like today.

“I grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, 20 minutes from Dearborn, and automotive never crossed my mind. I never learned about what the automotive industry is today, only the 20th century version,” Weston said.

She also said we need to teach kids about the automotive and mobility industry as it is today because it is all about the technology that goes into a vehicle.

Kruse stated that the demand for talent continues to grow, with over 9 million open jobs in the U.S., a record high as of April 2021. By 2030, there could be as many as 85 million jobs that go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them. This is an opportunity for more collaboration between industry, academia, and government to fill the high-tech talent pipeline. Programs like ReturnPro can help fill the high-tech gap, Kruse says, but we also need to retain more Michigan students.

Miles agreed sharing that only 5% of his graduating college class stayed in Southeast Michigan. Miles believes that we must control the narrative to solve this problem, and we can do that by focusing on community, culture, and careers. As a Let’s Detroit Ambassador, Miles connects with people considering opportunities in Detroit and talks to them about the multitude of opportunities to live, work, and play in Michigan.

Lunsford wrapped up the talent talks by discussing the importance of taking an approach to diverse talent through open and candid conversation. A member of the CEO Coalition for Change, Lunsford says there is a clear relationship between workforce development and social justice. Sharing a recent, personal example on why it is important to keep the dialogue open, Lunsford calls for change in a push for industry collaboration.

After the panel discussion, Steven Kiefer, founder of the Kiefer Foundation and president of General Motors International, took the stage to talk about the importance of legislating a hands-free Michigan to save lives. Sharing an impactful video of an accident resulting from driving while distracted, Kiefer shared his own personal story about losing his son Mitchell five years ago to a distracted driver. Statistically, 94% of drivers admittedly know that driving while distracted is highly dangerous. Yet 84% of those surveyed still drive distracted. Passing House Bills 4277, 4278, and 4279 to protect Michigan drivers is the next step in saving lives. Kiefer closed with a call to action for everyone to reach out to their legislators to press for a floor vote, and to tell friends and loved ones to put down the phone and Just Drive.