Q/A with Gail Alpert, president of FIRST in Michigan

It is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have job titles that do not currently exist. Many of these new roles will be related to STEM, so it is imperative that young people have opportunities to explore and become educated in these fields.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics is a program that does just that. Its mission is to inspire young people to become science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs and competitions. These events challenge students to raise funds, design a brand, hone teamwork skills and build and program industrial-size robots that play difficult field games against like-minded program_gail_alpert.jpgcompetitors. According to FIRST, this is as close to real-world engineering as a student can get.

To learn more about this innovative program, the Macomb Business blog sat down with Gail Alpert, president of FIRST in Michigan, for a Q and A.

Q1: Business and government leaders here in Michigan are very much invested in workforce development and building the next generation of talent. FIRST Robotics and FIRST programming can be an important part of that process. Why is that the case?

A: FIRST is designed to entice high schools students to choose a career in engineering, technology and the skilled trades through the building of a robot with the help of industry mentors from sponsoring companies. Students have the chance to see the tremendous capabilities of their mentors and follow in their footsteps, while the mentors can hand pick the students that best fit their companies for internships and jobs early on, long before the students are recruited by other companies.

Q2: In addition to STEM skills, many FIRST Robotics students develop confidence and communication abilities. How does FIRST programming help young people in this capacity and why should that matter to businesses?

A: There is no better tool in the student’s tool box than learning how to communicate in an effective, concise way. You can have the best product in the world, but if you cannot articulate why it’s the best, or why it’s needed, it means nothing. FIRST students not only compete with their robots, but are interviewed by a group of Judges about their robot and their team as part of the competition.  They are extremely well spoken and confident after participating in FIRST.

Q3: With these sentiments in mind, why should businesses get involved with FIRST Robotics and how can they do so? And to clarify, can businesses without a STEM-focus help as well?

A: All types of companies are and can be involved in FIRST, because all companies can play a vital role on a FIRST team even if they don’t have a STEM focus. Each team functions like a small business taking a product from inception to market.  Aside from designing, building and fabricating the robot, the teams have to do marketing, fundraising, budgeting and outreach.  All companies have some type of expertise that teams can use. Additionally, companies use FIRST to identify leaders and develop leadership skills among their current workforce.

Getting involved is easy. Simply contact me at Gail.Alpert@gmail.com. The busy season for high school teams is January through April. The season ends with the World Competition at Cobo Center on April 25-27 with about 40,000 people in attendance.

dsc_6998

Q4: Can you share any anecdotes from businesses that got involved with FIRST Robotics? Did they have positive experiences?

A: FIRST is always a win-win for companies that get involved. Two great examples come to mind. The first was a student that was hired as an intern at a tier one automotive supplier in his junior year. The very first day on the job, the student was given a software program that was relatively new to the company.  His mentor told him to play around it with it.  After lunch, the mentor returned and asked him how he was coming. The FIRST student replied: “Take a look. I created a game out of it.” The mentor was stunned.

The second story is about a student that planned to go into business rather than engineering.  He interned during his freshman year of college at the company that sponsored his high school robotics team.  About 20 of us were there for a meeting. The intern was running the meeting and was absolutely phenomenal.

Q5: What’s next for FIRST in Michigan? Are there any new initiatives, partnerships or expansions in the pipeline?

A: We always have new initiatives on the horizon. This year, the state money available through the Marshall Plan is creating fantastic opportunities for collaboration between FIRST teams and companies as communities come up with inventive ways to grow the STEM workforce. At least two of the proposals that were chosen for Plan funding included partnerships with FIRST.

FIRST is also focused on expanding our programs all the way down to kindergarten. In fact, 78 school districts across Michigan currently run all 4 of our programs (high school, middle school, upper and lower elementary school.) This season we are piloting a Pre-K program as well. It’s never too early to foster interest in STEM!

Detroit has been a huge focus for several years as we work to give every student in the city the opportunity to participate. Nearly every high school in Detroit has a FIRST team already, so we created a partnership with the Detroit Police Athletic League and Quicken Loans to start new teams at the middle school and elementary level. Ford, the FCA Foundation, the GM Foundation and Google are helping too. We are working with the Detroit Public Schools Community District to put FIRST in all third grade classrooms.

Finally, the state grant for FIRST, created about 5 years ago, enabled us to expand FIRST to the smallest of school districts in the most remote areas of the state. We are working to make sure the new legislature understands just how critical this funding is to all of our teams and to the continued development of the STEM workforce.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Accelerating towards next generation mobility in Macomb County

The North American International Auto Show is renowned for its fleet of future-focused vehicles. From concept cars to CAD drawings, the ideas for mobility seem endless – as is the discussion around what’s next for drivers. But topics that are sometimes missing from the conversation are our roadways and intelligent transportation systems (ITS). And those are important issues to explore, because smart cars won’t be very smart without smart roads and infrastructure.

pexels-photo-681347

Here in Macomb County, that’s not an issue. In fact, we’re leading the nation as one of the only counties developing next generation mobility strategies and roadways.

  • We have more than 300 Roadside Units (RSU) on business corridors throughout the county.
  • There are over 630 traffic signals connected to COMTEC, the Macomb County Communications and Technology Center.
  • 260 cameras help that facility monitor traffic on roads and 19 communication backhaul poles have created a robust ITS network.

Why does this all matter? The first answer is safety. Ultimately, Macomb County would like to increase driver welfare on area roads and decrease the number of car accidents. By combining current traffic safety programs with vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) systems and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, this goal is within reach. For instance, between 2016 and 2017, the county experienced a 33 percent reduction in traffic crash related fatalities. This is a direct result of actions taken by the Macomb Department of Roads backed up by data and technology.

The second answer is connected vehicle testing, an essential tool for the Big Three as they look to prototype and build more smart cars. To do that, they need infrastructure where they can assess their new vehicles in real-world settings. The 300 RSUs on Macomb’s business corridor give them this ability. These boxes gather and broadcast information at intersections and link with the connected vehicles to alert them to changing lights or other hazards. Eventually, the RSUs will be able to give speed guidance or construction alerts. And in the future, RSUs and connected vehicles could even communicate with other modes of transportation, like buses, pedestrians and bicycles, all using the same technology. But today, this system helps companies like GM, Ford and FCA experiment with their vehicles. And because Macomb prioritizes smart infrastructure, they can determine what will work and what won’t for drivers around the world. That’s certainly impressive; but of course it makes sense that our region would be a trailblazer in this effort. We make the cars, therefore we lead the way in next generation mobility.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Governor Snyder recognizes MADCAT efforts to build a talent pipeline for cybersecurity

Governor Rick Snyder attended a stakeholder meeting of the Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Awareness Team (MADCAT) held during the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) Industry Preview Days at Cobo Center. Focused on MADCAT’s Cybersecurity Career Pathway Project, the purpose of the meeting was to gather information from industry leaders about the growing need for cybersecurity experts so that educational counterparts can build curriculum based on industry need.

Governor Snyder, a self-proclaimed “nerd,” commended the group for their efforts. “Our ability to take the lead in cybersecurity is dependent on public and private partners coming together to make it seamless and easy for people who want to enter the field to get relevant training.” Watch the governor’s remarks.

Other speakers included:

  • County Executive Mark A. Hackel who spoke about exponential growth in the industry based on data gathered by the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development
  • Andrew Smart, Chief Technical Officer for the American Center for Mobility announced that they will be adding a cybersecurity competent to the center.
  • Kevin Baltes, Director & CISP for Product Cybersecurity at General Motors discussed critical needs for the automotive industry
  • Major General Michael Stone, Assistant Adjutant General Installations for the Michigan Army National Guard and Jeff Jaczkowski, Associate Director for US Army TARDEC talked about critical needs for the defense industry

Elaina Farnsworth, CEO for Mobile Comply and lead consultant for the MADCAT Cyber Pathway Initiative, lead an interactive discussion to gather ideas about engaging industry and academia in creating seamless pathways to education and to market this career opportunity to students.

“As the industry emerges, new challenges will be presented to current and future workers,” said Farnsworth. “The future is unclear for tomorrow’s workers given the vast number of interrelationships between rapidly evolving technology, new market entrants and the divergent standards and regulatory efforts being promulgated around the world. As these transitions occur, more value will accrue to those who are educated and understand the evolving industry.”

Michigan’s future success will rely on investment in and commitment to collaboratively creating a clear pathway for our cyber workforce. The State of Michigan has supported the development of cyber infrastructure through a coordinated, interagency approach. To learn more about the resources available to you and your organization go to www.madcat.org

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Strong job growth continues in Macomb County

The most recent jobs update released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Macomb County gained 1,590 jobs last month and 10,730 total so far in 2017. The July data shows a total of 422,219 Macomb County residents are working. This is the highest number of people employed in Macomb County in more than 16 years, dating back to November 2000 when 418,451 people were employed.

chart

Macomb County voters adopted an executive form of county government that began in 2011. Under the leadership of the first-ever county executive, Mark A. Hackel, Macomb County has gained 59,320 jobs. The unemployment rate in the county is currently 4.2 percent.

“Our local economy is growing at a remarkable pace. These new jobs are a direct result of Macomb County’s leadership in sectors of mobility, aerospace, life sciences, information technology, defense and homeland security,” said John Paul Rea, director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. “We are excited about these results and will continue to work toward greater economic vitality for our families in Macomb County.”

Year-over-year job growth shows gains in the county. The county’s 2017 to-date job growth is outpacing its 2016 to-date job growth of 8,511.

The updated jobs numbers continue the streak of eight continuous years of job growth in Macomb County. Jobs numbers have grown every single year in Macomb County since the height of the recession in 2009, when 350,776 people in the county were working. The county peaked in jobs numbers in May 1999, when 437,251 were employed. At that time, unemployment was at a mere 2.7 percent.

The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development has been integrally involved in supporting the automotive industry. We offer free and confidential services to businesses of all sizes across multiple targeted industries. Reach out today so we can assist with your needs.

 

Posavetz, Nick IMG_0221Nick Posavetz is an economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development and is focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn about what resources are available for your business, reach out to him at posavetz@macombgov.org.

Jacobs delivers final economic forecast, projects growth

After 34 years of delivering the Macomb Economic Forecast, Macomb Community College President Jim Jacobs, Ph.D., delivered his final forecast presentation last week. The event was presented by the Chamber Alliance of Macomb County, and Wayne State University was the premier sponsor, as they have been for the past 10 years.

The overall message was that while Macomb County is still recovering from the recession, it is well positioned to continue its path of progress.

The county is seeing remarkable automotive investments, many of which are in areas of the automotive industry that will continue to see growth, such as research and development for autonomous vehicles. Manufacturing also continues to be an important part of what Macomb County does. Jacobs marveled how over the span of his career, this industry has transformed from bending steel to software.

Macomb’s defense industry is also robust, not only including major assets such as TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, TARDEC and Selfridge Air National Guard Base, but also the private sector which is winning significant contracts. Another industry growing in importance is cybersecurity, as is evidenced by yet another cybersecurity lab opening in the county next week at the Wayne State Advanced Technology Education Center in Warren.

The county continues to attract population growth, in particular new immigrants. As such, Jacobs said the county needs to position itself as welcoming. He also predicts a new suburban ecosystem that emphasizes the importance of recreation, education, health care and the environment.

Jacobs said regional transit would make the county more attractive and is essential to economic growth. He cited the success of Jimmy John’s Field as valuable family entertainment that also spills over to other local businesses. Greening projects like the Green Macomb Urban Forest Partnership are also making Macomb more attractive.

Jacobs called for more organizations like Advancing Macomb and Leadership Macomb, which he credited for getting citizens involved in the community and not simply looking to elected officials to lead the way.

The county also has challenges to overcome. These include providing residents more opportunities for growth, continuing to diversify the economic base and expanding civic infrastructure to complement and support the private sector.

According to Jacobs, the continued growth of Macomb County will depend on how well we protect and grow our defense assets, how we handle infrastructure issues and adapt to new needs such as broadband and autonomous sensors on roadways, and how we overcome disparity throughout the county.

At the conclusion of the event, Jacobs received a standing ovation. The chambers thanked him and revealed that he has agreed to play a role in future economic forecasts after he steps down as president of Macomb Community College later this year.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

Macomb employers looking for more engineering talent

Last month, the Macomb Business Blog looked at top job postings for all jobs in Macomb County. This month, we examine the labor market specifically for one of Macomb County’s targeted industries: advanced manufacturing.

More than 1,200 companies make up Macomb County’s network of world-class innovators within the advanced manufacturing industry sector. Collectively, these companies employ almost 40,000 highly-skilled workers across fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Utilizing sophisticated tools and software systems, employees continually integrate designing, prototyping, production and supply chain management which leads to shorter product development cycles and increased manufacturing efficiencies. In Macomb County, companies compete brain-to-brain with national powerhouses such as California’s Silicon Valley, Boston’s Route 128 and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Are you an engineer looking for work or a job change? The advanced manufacturing job market in Macomb County is interested in you. Data from August and September (the most recent months that data is available) show more than 3,500 unique open positions for engineers in Macomb County. These positions cover all types of engineering (135 different types to be exact!). Here are the top 10 types in demand for the last two months:

engineers

These are well-paying jobs within an industry that earned a median of $100,428 in 2015. Hiring growth in Macomb County within this industry is outpacing the state average. Check out the chart below to compare how the industry has grown by number of jobs since 2009:

AdvM.jpg

Are you ready to apply or are you a company ready to hire? Resources are available for both the job seeker and the job provider. Those looking for work should check out the state’s website or reach out to their local Michigan Works! office. Employers looking for assistance can contact our department to find out more about employee training, financial assistance and other resources.

Also coming up later this month is a talent mixer for Key Safety Systems in Sterling Heights. The company is looking for applicants to fill 50 openings in senior engineer, program manager and commodity buyer positions. The event will take place from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15 at the Velocity Collaboration Center located at 6633 18 Mile Road, Sterling Heights, 48314. Advance registration is required and can be completed by emailing a resume to techjobs@keysafetyinc.com with “Talent Mixer” typed in the subject line of the email. To view open positions, visit www.keysafetyinc.com/careers.

Posavetz, Nick IMG_0221Nick Posavetz is a senior planner for Macomb County, often providing content for the Macomb Business and Make Macomb Your Home websites and associated social media accounts. If you have something you’d like to feature, reach out to him at posavetz@macombgov.org.

Hot Jobs: September 2016

 

Are you or is someone you know looking for work? Just released data from our information partners at EMSI provide us with insight that can help you get on the right track to finding your next job or help you plan to achieve the skills needed to get one of these jobs.

Nurses, engineers and software developers all make the list of top jobs in demand in Macomb County. When looking at total job postings, most jobs are posted more than once. Posting intensity measures how many posts are made about each unique job, signaling the intensity of the desire of the employer to fill that position. Here are the hot jobs in Macomb County for September 2016.

chart3

Curious about which companies are hiring? Here are the companies with the most unique open positions in Macomb County in September.

chart1

Looking for a job close to home? Here are the communities in Macomb County that have the most job postings.

chart2

Resources are available for both the job seeker and the job provider. Those looking for work should check out the state’s website http://www.mitalent.org or reach out to their local Michigan Works! office. Employers looking for assistance can contact our department to find out more about employee training, financial assistance and other resources.

Posavetz, Nick IMG_0221Nick Posavetz is a senior planner for Macomb County, often providing content for the Macomb Business and Make Macomb Your Home websites and associated social media accounts. If you have something you’d like to feature, reach out to him at posavetz@macombgov.org.