The automotive and mobility industry is everchanging—which brings both excitement and challenges. As the industry advances, so does the job market. While job descriptions continue to depend on technical skills, whether it be manufacturing, information technology or cybersecurity, it is important to consider the future of talent in the mobility space. This month, we are highlighting automotive education programs across the state that are driving innovation, building the talent pipeline and reimagining the future of automotive and mobility.

Washtenaw Community College’s Advanced Transportation Center (ATC) is one of the centers leading the charge. Launched as a concept in 2014, the ATC was eager to become the state’s frontrunner in terms of technician training. The ATC is uniquely designed, offering programming across three key areas of mobility: automotive servicing, manufacturing and programming. Affording both academic and certificate programs, the ATC creates a pathway for all students, offering a multidisciplinary approach across focus areas. At any given time, there are approximately 1,000 students across WCC involved in a mobility-focused program. WCC’s ATC is an industry-driven program, providing students exposure to new, advanced technologies in the early stages of their career. 

“Our students are exposed to all facets of automotive connectivity,” said Brandon Tucker, associate vice president of workforce and community development at WCC. “Our programs take a holistic approach to transportation to build a broader range of skillsets and provide successful pathways for our students beyond the classroom. We update our curriculum regularly, source new technologies and listen for pivots in the industry to equip our students for their careers in automotive.”

Oakland NEXT is yet another initiative propelling the state forward in terms of workforce development. Targeted toward 18–24-year-olds, the goal of Oakland NEXT is to build the region’s future workforce with talented young professionals by way of innovative career exploration, demand-driven training programs, and paid internships. In 2020, 700 students were able to experience what it is like to work in advanced manufacturing through eight virtual company visits as a part of Manufacturing Day. Other events include virtual job fairs, resource fairs and hands-on career discovery, such as MiCareerQuest Southeast, the region’s largest career exploration event.

Macomb County’s Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center, a tech and talent hub announced at the North American Auto Show (NAIAS) in 2019, has since advocated for innovative robotics education in Michigan. Operating year-round, the center provides a collaborative space for robotics and STEM learning for ages K-12. Through business, educational and nonprofit partnerships, the robotics center offers access to engineering, computer science and business development support and connects students with automotive, manufacturing and technology firms state-wide. Collaborative, hands-on learning opportunities fuel the program, allowing access to various resources including fabrication machinery, electronic tool soldering and virtual reality. As technology companies continue to flourish in Southeast Michigan, the Macomb County Robotics Center works to prepare students for the competitiveness of the industry through experiential opportunities.

Michigan Cyber Range is another key educational opportunity offered across the state. Created as a part of the Michigan Cybersecurity Initiative, Michigan Cyber Range recognizes the need to connect industry with technology while building a robust cybersecurity community. By leveraging regional centers (also known as Cyber Hubs) throughout the state, the initiative poses over 40 industry-specific certifications aimed to qualify individuals for positions in cybersecurity fields. Cyber Hubs can be found across Michigan, providing students and IT professionals with a solid foundation in cybersecurity through hands-on coursework, exercises and labs—engaging all levels of the workforce. Hubs are currently accessible at the following locations: Pinckney High School, Wayne State University, West Michigan Center for the Arts and Technology (WMCAT), NMU Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute and UM-Flint.

“As technology continues advancing at a rapid pace, cybersecurity has become an increasingly critical industry,” said Sarah Tennant, MEDC sector development director. “The Cyber Range Hubs aim to meet the current demand for workforce, while developing a talent pipeline that will serve industries future needs, by being a magnet site for the community hosting events, exercises and trainings.”

The Michigan Mobility Institute, the first initiative of the Detroit Mobility Lab, accelerates mobility workforce development, upskilling programs and post-secondary degrees through industry and education partners. The institute trains professionals and tradespeople in areas such as cybersecurity, AI, robotics and more. Through various programs including retaining, executive education, upskilling and other advanced degrees, the Michigan Mobility Institute remains focused on strengthening the talent pipeline and retaining existing workers. Together, Wayne State University and the Michigan Mobility Institute have also recognized the importance of new mobility credentials, resulting in the creation of Wayne State’s Industry Center for Advanced Mobility back in 2019. This partnership aims to expand on cyber-physical systems programs at WSU.  

Oakland University’s Automotive Tribology Center, which lives within OU’s mechanical engineering department, is dedicating to driving automotive tribology research across the nation. The ATC is the only university research center in the United States concentrating on research of this kind, creating a unique position to advance the future of automotive and mobility. The ATC’s mission aims to lower frictional energy losses while enhancing the reliability of automotive components—with new technology developments being transferred to the military and governmental and industrial sectors of the United States economy.

These programs and more throughout the state of Michigan play a pivotal role in preparing for the future of the automotive industry. Visit the respective websites linked above to learn more about each program.