Detroit Regional Chamber > Filling Talent Gaps in a Post-COVID Automotive Industry

Filling Talent Gaps in a Post-COVID Automotive Industry

April 28, 2020
Restart to Rebuild, Recovery, and Growth

As the focus of our COVID crisis turns toward the restart of the automotive industry, MICHauto is considering steps beyond the restart to include recovery, rebuilding, and growth. Certainly, the world has changed dramatically, but when it comes to the talent needs of the automotive and mobility industry, there are still some major gaps to be filled now and in the foreseeable future.

MICHauto has recently partnered with Project Lead the Way (PLTW) to continue its mission to improve the perception of the automotive industry among students and to grow the program in the 2020-2021 school year, regardless of how that may look in the fall. PLTW helps to identify and connect schools to the automotive and mobility ecosystem by creating an engaging classroom environment that empowers students to develop in-demand knowledge and skills.

This month, MICHauto had a virtual meeting with 150+ Project Lead the Way school leaders from around the state to discuss how to take the goals of the Discover Auto program to continue to change perceptions of youth across the state through a hands-on, collaborative nature that prepare students for success in this industry. Through the partnership, PLTW students see the direct link between the skills they are developing in their classrooms and the work being done in the automotive and mobility industry. 

Here are 3 things to do now during the crisis as we look towards a future of recovery and rebuilding:

  1. Share stories of companies that pivoted to PPE, highlighting the skills and innovation of our industry
  2. Share videos of hands-on workers demonstrating equipment or processes
  3. Engage a young professional in your organization to share video testimonials that showcase what automotive looks like inside your company.

Now more than ever, it is important for us to focus on the talent for the industry. While it is taking a backseat due to the pandemic and economic crisis, the labor and talent challenges will re-emerge. In addition, having the right talent in the right position is critical as we rebuild our workforce to address these unprecedented circumstances and prepare to restart production as quickly as possible. MICHauto is dedicated to continuing its efforts to address the talent gap issue and promoting careers in the automotive industry among our youth.

Background on Discover Auto

The objective of the program is to educate students on the industry, its technology, and promote careers in automotive and mobility as exciting and viable career choices. The tours begin with a brief classroom style presentation, followed by an interactive tour of an automotive facility. Students are provided with technology and/or testing equipment demonstrations and are encouraged to engage with young industry leaders throughout the day. Through these exciting and engaging experiences paired with an opportunity to connect with young leaders that the students can relate to, the tours generate a more positive perception of the industry. Thus, stimulating the pipeline of talent that considers a career in automotive.

In order to prove this value, MICHauto has added a perception survey to the tours. Students are required to take a pre-tour and post-tour survey to gauge their interest in automotive and assess how their opinions change after the tours.  We have found that 87% of students would consider a career in automotive after the Discover Auto tours, as opposed to 64% prior, as their understanding of available careers expanded.  One student responded in the survey, “I thought it was basically a general theme of mechanical engineering, but it comes with a lot more.”  Another student responded, “I had never realized the prevalence of computer sciences and programming in vehicles.”

In addition, students often gain awareness about the high-tech and innovative capacities of the automotive industry. When asked to list five words they believe describe the automotive industry, many students listed “assembly-line”, “cars”, or “engineering”. However, after the tour, they responded with “innovative”, “advanced”, “high-tech”, “creative”, and “worldwide”.