Wayne State Is MI Mobility Institute’s First Educational Partner

The Michigan Mobility Institute, an organization working to create a new crop of mobility professionals with skills in artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity, and other related fields, has chosen its inaugural educational partner.

Jessica Robinson, the institute’s executive director, says Wayne State University’s College of Engineering will lead development of a graduate-level advanced mobility education curriculum. Robinson said the institute talked to a “number of schools in Michigan and beyond” while seeking a partner before landing on Wayne State.

“When I had an opportunity to sit with Farshad Fotouhi, the dean of the engineering school, it was immediately apparent that he understood our vision and was thinking about some of the same things, such as the development of a cyber-physical certificate,” she says. “It showed that Wayne State was serious about building capabilities, and that got us really excited.”

Fotouhi, who also works as a computer science professor at the university, brings a fresh perspective on what mobility training should be, Robinson says, and he recently added more faculty to the engineering department who specialize in mobility technologies. Also important in choosing Wayne State as a collaborator was its connection to the Detroit community. According to the institute, Wayne State is one of only six public universities in the US to have received the highest Carnegie Foundation ratings for both research intensiveness and community engagement.

“It’s a school for Detroiters that is building a presence in the state and across the world,” she adds. “Mobility really is about deploying services to help people get around, and we argue there’s no better place to do that than in a city like Detroit.”

In January, the Boston Consulting Group and the Detroit Mobility Lab, the institute’s sister organization, found that national demand for engineering graduates with the skills required for mobility careers could be up to six times greater than expected supply. Autonomous driving, connectivity, and electrification will help create more than 100,000 industry jobs in the next decade, Robinsons says, including up to 30,000 jobs for engineers with degrees based in computer-related subjects.

Robinson says there is still work to be done in terms of the mobility program’s specifics, but the institute is currently studying how to build a curriculum that incorporates new and existing classes. The goal is to start enrolling students by 2021.

The institute also has a few other early-stage workforce development initiatives underway that look at a variety of ways to bring employers and educators together. “The advanced mobility degree is an important pillar in that effort, but it’s not for everybody and it’s often not necessary [to get a job],” Robinson says.

Robinson is optimistic due to an already robust amount of interest in the institute’s work from other areas around the world, including Europe, Asia, and South America.

“They’re sending people here; we’re bringing our people there to facilitate the flow of international talent,” she explains. “The common theme is cities or countries with a manufacturing history that are thinking about how the business is changing and what that means in terms of workforce. It’s like-minded people thinking about their needs and sharing best practices.”

The mismatch between worker skills and the number of jobs open in the mobility industry continues to grow, Robinson says. However, she says Michigan is still “incredibly well positioned” to lead and respond to the industry’s talent needs. At the high school level, she says the growth of First Robotics and the exposure to STEM education Detroit students get as part of the program are positive indicators.

“We’re thinking about how to infuse mobility themes into programming they already have so youth are introduced to opportunities, particularly those kids from families with a connection to the auto industry,” she adds. “There’s an opportunity to paint a bigger vision of frankly the very cool careers they can have in this sector. We have a corporate community that understands the importance of industry partnering with education. It’s just a matter of focusing.”

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