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Exposing More Than 150 Students, MICHauto Summit Shows Future Talent Automotive Industry Is ‘Cool’ Again

As Michigan’s automotive industry goes full throttle to meet the demand of an ever-changing mobility landscape, one thing is clear: maintaining the state’s global leadership in this space is contingent on access to a well-educated and highly skilled talent pipeline. MICHauto, Michigan’s only statewide automotive cluster association, is dedicated to that goal by engaging students at all levels using every tool at its disposal. The apex of that effort shown brightly at this year’s MICHauto Summit on Oct. 11.

Aptly titled “Explore Your Automobility Future,” the Summit brought together more than 150 students and interns from colleges and trade schools across the state to explore and interact with the industry’s top leaders who discussed everything from electrification to autonomous vehicle deployment. Throughout the daylong event, held in conjunction with the Detroit Moves Festival, Summit speakers hammered home the message that the automotive industry is cool again.

“We need talent from every background and interest, not just STEM,” said keynote speaker Ken Washington of Ford Motor Company. “If you want to move the world, I guarantee there is a place for you in this industry.”

Taking a different approach from previous years, the Summit engaged students both visually and through interactive town hall-style discussions that allowed automakers and suppliers to hear directly from their future talent. Topics ranged from new technological innovation, to where the industry is heading and why Detroit is the best place to make your mark. Students’ questions ranged from how to land a job in the industry to ways the industry is working to improve the battery life on electric vehicles.

Leading up to and during the Summit, students were encouraged to interact with the industry by downloading the Summit app sponsored by PlanetM and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to complete challenges to score points toward prizes like an Apple iPad Mini, Amazon gift card, and Google Chromecast. For every industry leader a student networked with, he or she could scan the QR code on that individual’s badge to score additional points and encourage further dialogue.

“We have to kick the talent discussion into overdrive,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto. “As the shop floor continues to change, as the convergence of auto and tech coalesces, we have to ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing to make sure we’re attracting, retaining and creating talent?’ Our economic future depends on it.”

The Summit closed with a tour of the Detroit Moves Festival, part of a weeklong series of events held during Mobility Week Detroit that is aimed to connect the public, consumers and industry together with new technologies.