The Challenge of Finding Engineering and Technical Talent in Michigan

Mohamad S Qatu, PhD, PE
October 17, 2022
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With high school graduates on the decline what is the state of Michigan doing to fill much needed engineering jobs? The GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology has worked vigorously in Michigan and neighboring states as well as globally to bring more students to Michigan and prepare them with the needed skills of tomorrow.

We witnessed a new revolution in engineering and technology that started three decades ago. Initially, the internet started to play an increasing role in our lives. This ultimately led to the evolution of several new companies that became among the most valued globally in a relatively short time. Meanwhile, innovations in new fields in social media, virtual reality, automation, drone technology, electric vehicles, autonomous systems, additive manufacturing, internet of things, sustainability and many more technical fields continue to improve and influence our lives. Advances in engineering and technology in medical fields are also as astounding. The need for highly talented and skilled professionals in engineering, computing and technology has never been greater.

On the other hand, the State of Michigan has been facing a demographic challenge. The number of high school graduates has declined by as much as 30% in the past 10 years. Subsequently, students enrolled in engineering and technology have declined resulting in less graduates. This added to the already acute problem of finding talent and skilled professionals.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation(MEDC) shows the total positions advertised in 2021 in engineering, computing and technology to be close to 20,000. This is an increase of about 30% compared to 2017, where advertised jobs in these disciplines were close to 15,000. The bureau of labor statistics reports a need of more than 30% added jobs in certain disciplines (e.g., cybersecurity) by 2030. Meanwhile, the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) shows that the number of students in engineering, computing and technology and related disciplines from all public and private universities in Michigan is about 30,000 students graduating only7,000 students per year which is about one third of the advertised positions. An engineering or technology graduate may get several offers upon graduation. Many companies have gone out of State to find talented professionals and bring them to Michigan. Some of these companies are finding that not to be a sustainable strategy for securing talent.

In addition, engineering, computing and technology disciplines attract less than 30% female students and less than 5%of African American students in Michigan! This shows an outstanding opportunity of attracting diverse students (especially female or African Americans) into engineering, technology and computing disciplines.

The Engineering Deans of more than 15 public and private universities in Michigan met at the Game Above College of Engineering and Technology at Eastern Michigan University last October. Almost all reported that attracting and graduating more engineers, computer scientists and technologists require additional resources. These resources are needed to educate the public and the high school graduates about the opportunities engineering, computing and technology professions can bring to them. Additional resources are also needed to update existing laboratories with the latest apparatus and equipment and secure faculty positions to educate additional students.

To face the above challenges, The Game Above College of Engineering and Technology has worked vigorously in the State and neighboring states as well as globally to bring more students to the Michigan and prepare them with the needed skills for a market that is on the look for such skills and talent. We partnered with several companies and individuals who share our passion to raise funds to secure updated labs and most advanced equipment. To address the gender and diversity gap, we established the office of K-12 STEM outreach to bring hundreds of female and diverse (mostly African American) students from middle and high schools to campus though our Digital Divas and Digital Dudes programs. In addition, we partnered with organizations like the Engineering Society of Detroit to bring African American female students to stay on campus for four weeks to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). While we are making progress, we realize the need for talent in engineering, computing and technology in the State is far greater.

Largest increase in recruitment across core industry employers (Curtesy of MEDC and BCG Talent Action Team for EV and Mobility)

Mohamad S Qatu, PhD, PE
Mohamad S Qatu, PhD, PE

Dr. Qatu is the Dean of the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology at Eastern Michigan University His College houses about 1800 undergraduate students, 300 graduate students (masters and PhD). The College has ABET accredited programs in mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, civil engineering, engineering technology and cybersecurity. In addition, the college offers construction management, aviation technology and management, and other programs. He served as the Director of the School of Engineering and Technology at Central Michigan University, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Mississippi State University and other schools. He also held senior engineering positions for Dresser Industries, Dana Corporation and mostly at Ford Motor Company for approximately 14 years. He received his MS and PhD from the Ohio State University in 1986 and 1989; respectively. His main research interests are automotive noise vibration and harshness (NVH),composite structures, and engineering mechanics. He is the Editor-In-Chief of the International Journal of Vehicle Noise and Vibration and on the editorial board of several journals. He is the author or co-author of more than 100research publications, in addition to four books and two patents/prior art. He is a recipient of several from various international universities as well as industry. He has been a key note speaker in many national and international events. He is a Fellow in both the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME)and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

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