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Leading Michigan’s Workforce Through the EV Transition

March 20, 2024 Drew Coleman, MICHauto

Drew Coleman | Senior Director, MICHauto

When I talk to companies facing the EV transition, the top challenge they always name is around people – getting their current people the right training and recruiting new talent to their companies. Behind every company are the people who get products to market. And to maintain Michigan’s leadership of the automotive and mobility industry, we need our workforce to lead as well.

The automotive industry is very personal to me. My grandpa, dad, uncle, and brother all worked at the same automotive plant over several decades here in Michigan. I grew up going to plant open houses every summer, and the smell of hydraulic fluid at the tool and die plant is a core childhood memory for me. The plant my family worked at opened in the 1930s, and over the decades, the manufacturing taking place inside the plant dramatically evolved from highly manual to highly technical. What once was a very repetitive – and sometimes dangerous – job evolved thanks to automation.

Today, Michigan has become the center of global automation, with more robots than anywhere else on the planet. This automation removed people from unsafe and repetitive roles and created the need for robotics programmers and other technical roles. Then, Industry 4.0 emerged – connecting every element of the plant to the Cloud, allowing for predictive maintenance, productivity reports, clearer views into inventory and supply chain, and the ability to view detailed plant data remotely in real- time. Now, with electric vehicles being produced at scale, including battery packs at the same plant that my grandpa worked at starting in the 1950s, there is, again, an impact on our workforce at all levels.

This is not the first time that Michigan’s workforce has required new skills to keep pace.

There are numerous initiatives across the state focused on upskilling and reskilling new and incumbent workers. MICHauto continues to build partnerships and advocate for these programs and prioritizes the industry’s voice in the design and implementation of these initiatives.

Staying true to our mission to protect, retain, and grow Michigan’s signature industry, MICHauto focused on growing our talent pipeline and the future workforce – inspiring and exposing the next generation of innovators to the industry and showcasing the high-tech careers available throughout Michigan. That is the core focus of our High-Tech Talent initiative.

In 2023, through a series of pilots, projects, and research studies, we laid the foundation of our work. Now, in 2024, we are focused on expanding our impact and ability to increase the future talent pipeline. There are countless career opportunities within the automotive, mobility, and technology industries. Our High-Tech Talent initiative is a direct response to conversations with our investors looking for a long-term solution to the talent pipeline.

Interested in getting involved with MICHauto’s high-tech talent work? Contact Drew Coleman at dcoleman@michauto.org.