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BLM Offers Plan To Make Michigan A 'Global Engineering Village'

DETROIT (WWJ) -- Michigan can become a global leader in engineering by building on its existing strengths, according to recommendations released Monday by Business Leaders for Michigan, the statewide CEO organization that is the successor to Detroit Renaissance.

BLM said it convened top economic and industry leaders to develop a business agenda that capitalizes on Michigan's strong engineering base, attracts and develops new engineering talent, and redefines the state's economic identity.

"Michigan leads the nation in the number of engineers per capita, and has the output metrics and earnings power to support tremendous economic growth," said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of BLM. "We began with these strengths in mind, and reached out to key stakeholders to help develop a business plan capable of strengthening the state's economy through this industry sector."

The strategy is aimed at a single goal: increase the engineering sector's contribution to Michigan's economy over the next 10 years and help Michigan achieve recognition as a 'Global Engineering Village' with exceptional and plentiful engineering talent.

Key recommendations include:

* developing a branding and marketing campaign showing that there are many and diverse engineering job opportunities in Michigan. Included would be efforts in social media to show the diversification of engineering jobs in the state (auto, furniture, IT, life sciences, defense, etc.), showcasing companies and key spokespeople
* developing an engineering-specific component for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s out-of-state talent attraction program
* encouraging businesses and universities to offer more co-op and internship opportunities as a way to retain engineering talent
* developing an "engineering job center" and listing all engineering vacancies by engineering sector, perhaps using the MEDC website
* developing and expanding training programs so Michigan engineers can easily obtain skills to transfer from one sector to another for engineering jobs, for instance, from automotive to defense
* working with the federal government to develop a program to allow international students to obtain green cards with their diplomas so they can stay in Michigan and work
* encouraging businesses to offer part-time project work for retired engineers to help address talent needs and encourage retired engineers to get back into the work place to help address the demand for engineering work
* developing an ecosystem for engineers similar to what Palo Alto offers for entrepreneurs (venture capital, university research, support services, etc.) to ensure engineers have the support services they need, including technicians, designers, draftsmen, tool and die makers, and more
* providing an incubator such as "Robot Garage" in Birmingham that is geared to engineers and provides an environment where engineers can make things without having to create their own infrastructure
* encouraging employers to provide flexibility to allow engineers to spend a small portion of their time doing community service work or self-directed projects
* surveying engineers to determine what other types of support services would encourage them to locate or stay in Michigan
* developing a marketing-branding campaign around the mobility-automotive industry to showcase it as exciting, positive and reflect its high tech nature.
* host and conduct familiarization tours for engineering recruiters; educate them on the engineering employment opportunities in Michigan, the major businesses located in the state and the strong quality of life.
* identify and aggressively pursue hosting the top national engineering and engineering-related conferences. Use the opportunity to showcase the state's strengths -- talent, quality of life, business-friendly environment -- to attendees to help change the state's image and attract them to the state. Partner with the MEDC, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, chambers and other associations in this effort.
* take advantage of large, statewide professional conferences like the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars and annual meetings of the Michigan Economic Developers Association, the Michigan Society of Association Executives, and others to spread the word about the state's strengths -- talent, quality of life, business-friendly environment.
* create new events to attract engineering talent and to help change the state's image. Examples include an engineers conference that includes all engineering disciplines or an engineering leadership conference that would bring together the global leaders of the profession in Michigan, an innovation contest focused on engineers to showcase inventions across the state or in individual cities (modeled after Grand Rapids' ArtPrize for the arts) and a "Michigan Fix-it" conference to solve the world's problems. Encourage Michigan employers to donate engineers for one week every year to participate in the conference and help solve problems. Promote the conference and accept problems from businesses, governments and educational institutions across the globe.
* create a new "destination" in Michigan focused on the future of the mobility industry and showcase advancements.
* strengthen Michigan's education system and expand practical applications to encourage students to engage in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, specifically engineering.
* create new and expand existing programs that expose high school students to engineering jobs so they are aware of opportunities. Ensure high school counselors and other administrators are aware of and inform students who to contact if they are interested in an internship or co-op.
* encourage businesses and universities to offer more co-op and internship opportunities for students to help connect students to Michigan jobs before they graduate.

The engineering strategy is one of six BLM is developing with stakeholders as part of its Michigan Turnaround Plan to make Michigan a Top 10 state for jobs and a strong economy. The full report can be found at this link.

BLM will report annually on progress being made to implement this and the other five strategies it has identified to make Michigan a Top Ten state.

BLMs report notes that engineering services are predicted to experience significant growth in the upcoming years. The market is exhibiting increasing demand for high-tech manufacturing industries such as automotive, aerospace, medical devices and precision instruments.

And Michigan in particular ranks in the top five states for the number of engineering firms, engineering patents awarded and engineers per capita.

BLM said Michigan can become a 'Global Engineering Village' by branding the engineering sector, growing engineering education capacity and growing engineering firms and firms with in-house engineers.

BLM said the plan does not charge any one particular entity with implementation. Rather, a broad group, including business, government, education and civic stakeholders, will be needed to move the plan forward.

Participants in creating the plan included Ronald Brenke, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan; Shea Burns, director of engineering operations at Meritor Inc.; Sabrina Keeley, COO of BLM; Christine Longroy, event manager at SME; Jennifer McVey, business manager to the CEO at Steelcase Inc.; Bob Metzger, strategic development manager of cluster development at the Michigan Economic Development Corp.; Darlene Trudell, executive vice president of the Engineering Society of Detroit; Christopher Webb, director and co-founder of the ESD Institute.

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