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MICHauto Launches Industrywide Talent Attraction Campaign to Improve Career Perceptions

Earlier this month, MICHauto launched a first-of-its-kind industrywide talent attraction campaign to raise awareness about and improve the perception of careers in the automotive and mobility industry among emerging talent. Through this grassroots-style social media campaign, young professionals offer testimonials in an authentic voice to share their career journeys, what attracted them to the industry, and how they are making an impact on the world around them, under the tagline of Discover Auto: You Drive the Future.

With direct input from high school focus groups, a task force made up of MICHauto Talent Attraction and Industry Awareness Committee members and lead by Carolyn Sauer, MICHauto’s senior director, and Jenny Orletski-Dehne, its coordinator, MICHauto collaborated to drive a new narrative among students that automotive is high-tech, growing, global, and inclusive.

This campaign answers the call of MICHauto investors to bolster the workforce and ensure Michigan’s continued global leadership in the industry for generations to come.

“The focus groups were a critical part of the planning for this campaign,” said Orletski-Dehne. “We had a lot of ideas about images and messaging that we thought would resonate well with this audience, and what we learned is that they are highly selective in what they are willing to stop scrolling for on social media. It needs to be quick, impactful, and have very few words.”

Michigan’s automotive and mobility industry contributed $304 billion in total economic output in 2019 but falls short when it comes to attracting and retaining the talent needed to support an innovative and growing industry. More than 1.1 million jobs are either directly or indirectly tied to the industry, accounting for 25% of Michigan’s 4 million private-sector jobs according to a recent MICHauto study. These are also some of the highest-paying jobs in our state. The average compensation for a worker in the industry is $65,000 compared with the state average of just under $30,000.

So why is there such a shortage of talent when it comes to filling these high-tech jobs? Task force members agree that there is still a stigma associated with the industry that it is not exciting, growing, or innovative.  Images conveyed in television and movies often depict the “olden” days of manufacturing in a dark and unappealing setting. Yet the excitement and innovation of what is actually happening today are conveyed through the firsthand stories of the young professionals that are featured throughout the campaign.

“When you listen to these stories, you hear the excitement in the voices of these young professionals. Most admit they had not initially considered a career in automotive, but now that they have landed in one, they are finding it interesting and impactful to work on projects that enhance the design, quality, and safety of products that they use, and in some cases, even impacting the environment around them,” said Sauer.

While the perception of automotive and mobility has improved, there is still work to be done by engaging students much earlier in the pipeline. The campaign targets specific audiences with messaging that resonates with each. Instagram key visuals and video clips are geared towards middle school and high school students, while LinkedIn focuses on influencers, like parents in the professional community. Beyond social media, MICHauto has partner support in sharing the message among school communities across the state from Square One Education Network and Project Lead the Way. Both organizations supported the Discover Auto series when it moved to a virtual platform last year due to the pandemic, engaging more than 500 students.

“This campaign expands on the work being done through Discover Auto and drives the new narrative through firsthand experience, creating a toolkit of assets that industry organizations and companies across the automotive and mobility supply chain can use to reinforce their messaging and highlight the innovative and fresh environments professionals can work in,” said Sauer.

Several MICHauto investor companies participated in the talent attraction campaign because they understand the importance of storytelling related to the industry and highlighting the innovative approaches that they are taking to grow the talent pipeline. Companies that contributed to the development of the pilot include American Center for Mobility, Continental Structural Plastics, Denso, Doerken Coatings, HELLA, Lear Corporation, OpTech, and Toyota.

Ben Cohen, head of sales excellence and marketing at HELLA says, “As a proud member of the automotive community here in Michigan, HELLA jumped at the opportunity to be an early supporter of the industry talent perception campaign and show the world how exciting and diverse automotive truly is.”

Toolkits are available to promote this campaign, including a revamped Discover Auto logo, campaign infographics and taglines, day-in-the-life videos, bios, and career maps.

To get involved in the next phase of the branding campaign, reach out to Jenny Orletski-Dehne or Carolyn Sauer.  Not a MICHauto investor yet? Contact Kathryn Smith to learn more.