What you should do before, during and after the upcoming professional job fair in Macomb County

Are you looking for your next career opportunity? If you answered yes and you work in the engineering, design, IT/cybersecurity, procurement and project management fields, you might just be in luck – as Macomb County recently announced a professional job fair for individuals working in these areas. The event will take place on Friday, April 12 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Sterling Banquet and Conference Center (34911 Van Dyke, Sterling Heights). It will feature more than 25 companies and organizations that are actively hiring, including BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, MB Aerospace, R&E Automated Systems and Waltonen Engineering. Interested individuals are asked to register for the free event at www.macombgov.org and those that do so on or before April 8 will receive early bird admittance at 11 a.m.

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So – are you planning to attend? If you are, we found some tips on Monster.com that might help you land that new job:

Before the hiring event

  1. Develop a Strong Resume: Highlight your skills and accomplishments. Your resume should be error-free, concise and graphically pleasing. Don’t forget to make several copies, since you’ll probably visit with more than one employer.
  2. Get or Make Business Cards: You can buy blank business cards at stores like Office Depot, and then use a computer and laser printer to create some personalized cards. List your name, contact information, and perhaps the career you’d like to pursue or your key skills.
  3. Study the Organizations Attending the Fair: Nothing impresses an employer less than a prospective candidate asking, “So what do you guys do?” Instead, be one of the few attendees who know something about each of the companies. The more informed you are, the more likely you will be positively remembered.
  4. Develop a 30-Second Commercial: “Tell me a little about yourself.” You’re likely to get that invitation from many of the employers at the fair. So spend a little time beforehand figuring out your response. Think of your reply as a 30-second, self-promotional commercial you’ll deliver to each employer who asks.

During the hiring event

  1. Introduce Yourself and Shake Hands: In many ways, a career fair is a test of your social skills. While employers are almost always friendly and outgoing, they’ll expect the same of you. If you haven’t done much ice breaking before, practice in advance with a career counselor or friend.
  2. Dress Appropriately: In most cases, you’ll want to dress professionally to attend a career fair. Sometimes business casual is fine, but don’t go too casual. When in doubt, overdress.
  3. Ask Intelligent Questions: If you’ve studied up on the organizations, you’ll probably have some questions you’d like to ask. Not only will you get some answers, but you’ll also show yourself to be someone who does his research.
  4. Focus on What You Can Offer: You’ll be a refreshing change to most company representatives if you tell them what you can do for them and their organizations instead of asking what they can do for you.
  5. Leave Your Resume and Card with Each Representative: Then be sure to grab each representative’s card.

After the hiring event

  1. Take Notes: After the fair concludes, jot down notes about conversations you had with company representatives. If you wait too long, the conversations will start running together in your head, and you’ll forget what you said to whom.
  2. Follow Up on Promises: If, for example, a company representative expressed interest in looking at your Web site, make sure to email the URL like you said you would.
  3. Send Thank-You Notes: Write or email each of the people you met and thank them for their time. Reiterate your interest in the company and your relevant skills and experience. Most job seekers fail to take this simple step, often losing out in the end to those who did express their thanks.

If you have any questions about the upcoming hiring event in Macomb County, which is being hosted by Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, the Macomb County Chamber and Michigan Works!, contact Janice Loftis at jloftis@macomb-stclairworks.org or at 586-738-9034. Good luck!

**The above tips were pulled from an article on Monster.com here: https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/learn-to-work-a-career-fair.

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

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.

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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.

Macomb County focused on “Future Tech, Future Talent” during Auto Show

In its most recent Future of Jobs Report (2018), the World Economic Forum forecasts dramatic changes for workplaces around the globe driven by automation and machines. wefBut this five year economic outlook is more positive than one would assume. From new job creation to retraining opportunities, the report features several interesting predictions, including:

  1. There is a net positive outlook for jobs – amid job disruption
    While current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms, 133 million new job roles may emerge at the same time. Those roles are either related to technology (data analysts, software and applications developers and e-commerce and social media specialists) or emphasize human traits (customer service workers, sales and marketing professionals, training and development, people and culture, and organizational development specialists).
  2. New tasks at work are driving demand for new skills
    By 2022, the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly. Skills growing in importance include analytical thinking and active learning as well as technology design. “Human” skills will also increase in value, including: creativity, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation, attention to detail, resilience, flexibility, complex problem-solving, emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence and service orientation.
  3. We will all need to become lifelong learners
    As workplaces change, so must workers. On average, employees will need 101 days of retraining and upskilling in the period up to 2022. This will require businesses to build a comprehensive strategy for workforce planning, training and education.

These points are driving a future-focused mindset here in Macomb County, where business, government and education leaders are collaborating on several new talent and technology initiatives. And while attending the North American International Auto Show, these leaders will take time to discuss a few of the efforts.

autonomous-1.1“We couldn’t think of a better time or place to highlight these initiatives than the North American International Auto Show,” said John Paul Rea, director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED). “This show is a testament to our region’s ingenuity and ability to grow and innovate. So we’re proud to showcase our county’s future-focused mindset here.”

The first major initiative they will highlight is a Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center, a new resource aimed at increasing awareness and opportunity within the robotics environment. The center was submitted by MCPED as a proposal to the Defense Industry Growth Area Grants program through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in the summer of 2018. It was recently awarded funding and will launch at the Velocity Collaboration Center later this year. Once open, the center’s mission will be partnering with businesses, educational organizations, nonprofits and startups to offer tools, programs, expert assistance and open access to an independent, digital- and electronic-based environment for creative people. It will be a facility and ecosystem which offers co-sharing and individual workspaces, computers, software and related technologies. It will also feature a tooling and fabrication shop, engineering and computer science assistance, business development assistance and mentors from leading automotive, defense, manufacturing and technology firms, all in an open, collaborative environment.

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“New technologies are having a massive effect on just about every aspect of our lives,” said County Executive Mark A. Hackel. “Whether it’s the economy, infrastructure or education, the world is changing and we need to be ready for that. This is why Macomb County is investing in new programs and initiatives aimed at tech and talent. We want to make sure that our communities and residents are prepared for the future in ways that will ensure our success.”

google-fueling talent pipeline-1.1Other major investments to discuss include Macomb County’s recently launched “Fueling the Talent Pipeline” effort – a service platform that will allow employers and educators to connect, share resources and help students become aware of future career opportunities – and its connected roadways strategy. The strategy, which involves the creation of a smart infrastructure network that can communicate with vehicles, bikes, buses and pedestrians, will position Macomb County as a leader in improving the overall mobility experience.

For more information on the above initiatives, visit www.macombbusiness.com.

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

The U.S. Army is modernizing. Here’s how local FIRST Robotics students will one day help.

Robots are changing the way we do almost everything. How we shop, receive healthcare, drive – nothing is off the table and a wide range of industries are adapting to keep pace. Perhaps leading the pack is the United States military. All five branches have made technological advancements to better protect the country and its citizens. In particular, the U.S. Army is already employing various robotic and autonomous systems, but it has clearly set a course to do much more.

In March of 2017, the U.S. Army’s Capabilities Integration Center published the first Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy with a central objective:

“The Army must pursue robotic and autonomous systems capabilities with urgency because adversaries are developing and employing a broad range of advanced robotic and autonomous systems technologies as well as employing new tactics to disrupt U.S. military strengths and exploit perceived weaknesses. Robotic and autonomous systems are increasingly important to ensuring freedom of maneuver and mission accomplishment with the least possible risk to soldiers.”

ausaWith that goal in mind, the Association of the U.S. Army recently hosted an Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition in Detroit. The two-day event saw hundreds of military leaders, defense industry representatives and robotics experts gather to showcase how the U.S. Army is developing critical capabilities in robotics, autonomy, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The ultimate goal – provide an open forum for attendees to discuss the Army’s efforts in creating autonomous systems while also providing a platform for industry partners to demonstrate technology breakthroughs that could help the military.

Four Macomb County FIRST Robotics teams took full advantage of that platform. Working with Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, these high school students had access to a special booth on the show floor. Here they demonstrated their engineering and programming skills by driving their custom-built robots and executing challenges. But perhaps more importantly, the space allowed the students to explain their FIRST Robotics program to high-ranking military leaders who had never heard of the organization.

As background, FIRST Robotics is a program that inspires 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 competitors. Simply put – it’s training that will build the STEM-ready workforce of tomorrow. These students will one day fill jobs like mechanical engineer or software developer. They will drive innovation and create solutions to problems that we have yet to encounter. They will lead us into the future.

Why would this matter to the U.S. Army? Well, the technological experience and problem solving abilities of FIRST Robotics students will be key to modernizing the military for the 21st century and beyond. And while the majority of these young people will likely enter the private sector, anything they invent or develop will crossover and be of use to the Army. So having the opportunity to meet these students now, while they are still in high school, can help the military forecast their future. Which is why several leaders visited the Macomb County/FIRST Robotics booth. They engaged the students in conversation, asked questions and inquired about sponsorships and internships. All told, they sparked the beginning of what could be a very mutually beneficial relationship that will help advance the interests of both the FIRST students and the U.S. Army now and well into the future.

Please note: You do not have to be in the military to make a connection with these talented FIRST Robotics students. So if you work for or run a company that would be interested in sponsorship, mentoring, hosting or simply meeting these teams, click here to take the next step. Macomb County Planning and Economic Development will help you reach the right team and build the right relationship.

Thank you to the four FIRST teams that participated at the expo:

  • ThunderChickens: Founded 20 years ago, the ThunderChickens are based out of Sterling Heights and the Utica Community Schools. The team, which has more than 100 students, has been to the FIRST Robotics World Championship 17 times, winning the event twice. In 2018, the ThunderChickens were a runner-up.
  • Crevolution: Crevolution is a FIRST team, created by The Thunderchickens, consisting of high school students from the Utica Community School district.
  • Byting Bulldogs: The Byting Bulldogs are based out of Romeo. The team has 55 student members.
  • AM.ROBOT 4810: The I.AM.ROBOT team has 58 members. It was founded seven years ago at the International Academy of Macomb.

 

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

FIRST Robotics: A student’s perspective

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. According to FIRST, this is as close to real-world engineering as a student can get.

Knowing this, Macomb County has begun collaborating with the 16 teams based here. One of our first efforts – a FIRST Robotics open house and panel discussion hosted by students from the International Academy of Macomb and the I.AM.ROBOT First Robotics team on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 from 3:45 p.m. – 6 p.m. For more information on the event or to secure your spot, click here.

To get a better understanding as to why this event is important, we invite you to read the following essay written by Magdalena Sawicki, a student from the International Academy of Macomb and a member of the school’s I.AM.Robot FIRST Robotics team.

Before last year, I never had a true passion. I had many hobbies, but nothing that truly made me stop and think, “This is my thing.” Additionally, I always had this mentality that I never truly fit or felt comfortable anywhere, which understandably put a damper on my feelings towards groups and teams. However, that same thinking is what justified the importance of the moment I knew I discovered my passion.

IMG_4805It all began my freshman year when I went to a new high school. The rigor of the International Baccalaureate program was the smallest of my worries compared to the challenges of making new friends and having to reintroduce myself. To be frank, I did not know how I was supposed to paint myself as a unique individual, when I had nothing that set me apart.  The transition was hard and the routine of it all started to make me feel nauseous. Then, like fate had it, an announcement of a robotics meeting played over the speaker. From that moment on, I was under a spell. My weekly meetings turned into daily meetings, sometimes staying at school from 3 p.m. to midnight. It was the first time that I was so wrapped up in doing something that there was no other place I would’ve rather been.

Two years into being on my team, I developed a leadership position and I spontaneously pushed my team into signing up for the All Girls Competition in Bloomfield. It was the first off-season event the team would’ve ever participated in, but I was beyond ready for the challenge. The moment I received the green light, I pushed everything aside besides the competition. Along with preparing myself, I had to prepare the five other girls on the team, expanding my knowledge from just programming to building and electrical. We practiced three times a week and I was confident in our abilities, however, I was still very intimidated by the other teams. So much so, I spent the morning of the competition in the bathroom consoling myself. In the competition queue, fear really hit me. I was trembling and jittery. Luckily, I had a bond with my drive team girls and they put on my favorite music knowing goofy dancing calms me down. Without even realizing it, I was standing at the driver station setting up. My driver saw me tense up again and reminded me of the work I put in to make this possible. We stood in preparation for the match and it was then, when the buzzer went off, that I knew this is my passion. All my nerves disappeared and I went into full focus, winning that match.

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From that moment, every time I’m faced with a tough situation, I swear I hear that starting buzzer. Robotics helped me find my identity, passion and skills like team-work, time-management and most importantly, leadership. The Girls competition became my outlet for later being operator on the actual drive-team, taking my team to worlds, advocating for women in STEM and being the student mentor for my final year of robotics, for not five girls but twenty.

Magdalena Sawicki is a senior from the International Academy of Macomb and has been a member of 4810 I.AM.Robot for four years. She is on the programming, business, outreach and drive teams. Magdalena also holds an extreme passion advocating for women in STEM. Recently, she participated in the Bloomfield All Girls competition as a drive coach and won a $1,000 scholarship through the above essay (5/55 girls).

FIRST Robotics open house to showcase student innovation and imagination

Sprinkled across Macomb County are impressive groups of high school students who are working hard to become STEM leaders and innovators as part of FIRST Robotics. FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was founded nearly 30 years ago as a mentor-based program and competition. Its mission is to build science, engineering, technology and life skills in young people – work that can help prepare students for the future economy. What does that mean exactly? Well, it is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have job titles that do not currently exist. And many of those roles will be related to STEM. So it is imperative that young people have opportunities to explore and become educated in these fields. FIRST Robotics is a great platform for that and it’s why nearly 84,000 Michigan high school students participate on local teams.

Here in Macomb County, there are hundreds of FIRST Robotics students and our team count stands at 16. Earlier this year, five of these 16 teams showcased their talents at the FIRST Robotics World Championship. They included:

  • ThunderChickens: Founded 20 years ago, the ThunderChickens are based out of Sterling Heights and the Utica Community Schools. The team, which has more than 100 students, has been to the FIRST Robotics World Championship 17 times, winning the event twice. In 2018, the ThunderChickens were a runner-up.
  • Blue Devils: Based in Richmond, the Blue Devils have 25 student participants. At the close of the 2018 competition, the Blue Devils were announced as a runner-up.
  • Byting Bulldogs: The Byting Bulldogs are based out of Romeo. The team has 55 student members.
  • The Fighting Pi: Formed in 2006 at the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences in Armada, Mich., Fighting Pi is made up of more than 40 students.
  • I. AM.ROBOT 4810 (pictured below): The I.AM.ROBOT team has 58 members. It was founded seven years ago at the International Academy of Macomb.

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Area businesses will have the opportunity to connect with these movers and shakers of tomorrow at a FIRST Robotics open house and panel discussion hosted by students from the International Academy of Macomb and the I.AM.ROBOT First Robotics team on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 from 3:45- 6 p.m. The event will feature representatives from the majority of Macomb County’s 16 teams as well as guest speakers that include Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Michigan Intermediate School District Superintendent Michael DeVault and First Robotics in Michigan President Gail Alpert. Interested individuals are welcome to attend and meet students, experience their innovations and hear from mentors and coaches on why FIRST Robotics is an integral part of fueling our talent pipeline.

For more information on the event or to secure your spot, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/macomb-county-first-robotics-open-house-and-panel-discussion-tickets-51719054083.