The American Center for Mobility (ACM) has committed itself to not just providing a test facility for the vehicles of the future, but also helping to nurture the workforce behind them.

ACM chief operating officer Mark Chaput views ACM’s role as a facilitator, working with industry and academia to identify skills gaps and provide the requisite programs to fill them.

Chaput says ACM is in a unique position to grow the mobility industry because it isn’t affiliated with a single company or university. ACM partners with numerous private companies as well as an academic consortium of 15 colleges and universities.

ACM acts as a go-between for the two groups, determining industry workforce needs and how local academic institutions can help meet those needs.

“Our value is in being an independent facility, not part of academia or industry, but a third party with common interests [on] both sides in developing solid curriculums and a skilled workforce,” Chaput says. “We’re here to help identify industry needs.”

ACM has done so in a variety of ways. ACM staff conduct studies and surveys, consult with their partners in academia and industry, and keep tabs on the latest mobility literature. The result is a better understanding of both short- and long-term workforce development demands.

As technology advances and new technologies emerge, a talent pool must exist to guide them.

“If you don’t have a qualified workforce to maintain these technologies, they become unused assets that are just sitting there,” Chaput says.

This April, ACM partnered with the Michigan Alliance for Greater Mobility Advancement (MAGMA) to release a Mobility Industry Skills Survey. MAGMA had released similar skills gap identification surveys in 2016 and 2017.

ACM and MAGMA not only reached out to OEMs and suppliers, but a range of sectors associated with mobility and autonomous vehicle technology.

As the survey was released in April, ACM and MAGMA also announced that they were partnering on a workforce development study.

“We’re trying to get a pulse on the industry and hiring agencies to reveal gaps in skill sets and challenges in workforce needs,” Chaput says. “We’re identifying skill gap trends so we can develop workforce development programs to eliminate those skill gaps. The results of the studies are one of many data sets used to develop workforce initiatives.”

A previous study by ACM explored the impact of autonomous vehicles on the workforce. Preparing the Workforce for Automated Vehicles revealed findings that some might consider surprising.

For instance, truck drivers are one of the most vocal groups concerned about losing their jobs to automated vehicles, Chaput says. However, the results of the study revealed that not only should truck drivers feel secure in their careers, but their career opportunities could very well improve with the advent of automated vehicle technology.

The results indicated that truck drivers’ jobs will remain while the mobility industry will also provide new job advancement possibilities, shifting truckers’ jobs from low-tech to mid- to high-tech.

Of course, they’ll need to further themselves with workforce advancement training. But ACM has already thought of that, too.

“We’re looking at assessing the results of these studies, working together with our academic consortium to develop a number of initiatives and also look at the degree programs provided to ensure that we’re developing relevant curriculums so we can develop skilled graduates to meet industry needs,” Chaput says. “The American Center for Mobility is a forum and convener to facilitate discussions.”