Talent Connect Newsletter - June 5, 2015

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Job Connect Newsletter

june 5, 2015

Michigan's Advantage in the Tech Talent Race


While Michigan is asserting itself as a hub of talent in many diverse industries, there may not be a sector experiencing as much growth as technology entrepreneurship and innovation.

Read below as Paula Sorrell from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation shares  her experience with the changing entrepreneurship landscape in Michigan and changing perception nation-wide.

I recently spoke to a great group of students and budding entrepreneurs at MSU, who shared some of the perceptions about starting a tech company, including needing to be located in Silicon Valley to get funded and find tech talent.

For Michigan, this is a lay-up.  Very few states offer any type of support for early stage tech companies to get off the ground (California isn’t one of them).  The cost of living on the coasts is close to prohibitive for young companies.  Besides the funding support to help companies get started – and those coming out of a university have an incredibly high 75 percent five-year survival rate – the talent question for early tech companies is addressed on several fronts:

1)      The tech transfer offices at Michigan’s universities employ 19 part-time mentors in residence.  These experienced entrepreneurs help companies build their strategies and develop their products to be ready for funding.  They could be retired on a beach but instead choose to give back to the state and the university by dedicating time to helping companies move forward.  Many of them opt to join a new company after their engagement with the university.

2)      The SBDC Tech Team are also mostly made up of nine experienced tech entrepreneurs who help companies create their technology roadmaps, guide them through strategic decisions, and annually help companies in Michigan raise more than $60 million in follow-on funding.


3)      The Tech Transfer Talent Network allows post docs or grad students working on research to continue to build their tech businesses and stay in the state.

4)      The Hacker Fellows program trains coders to work in tech startups, where they join the best and the brightest.  There are a number of fellows programs that operate around the state and particularly in Detroit – I’m always impressed with their intelligence and dedication.

5)      The Michigan I-Corps program teaches tech entrepreneurs in our state’s universities how to get customer validation and assess market need for technologies.

6)      The Smart Zone Incubators and the Business Accelerator Fund match consultants and mentors with tech companies on a regular basis.  They work with the community to identify appropriate “help” and advice for companies.

7)      Amy Cell Talent is focused on connecting tech talent needs with her vast network of people interested in moving to Michigan or identifying new opportunities in high growth companies.

Finally, the students and researchers themselves are an incredibly impressive group at our universities.  They are amazing technologists, courageous risk-takers, and fascinating innovators.  Because Michigan has outstanding universities and faculty, staff and students who are willing to tread new waters in entrepreneurship, we are certainly the state with the largest advantage.

Paula Sorrell is vice president of entrepreneurship, innovation & venture capital for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). She oversees $1billion under management to support Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, including university research and tech transfer, technology service providers, business incubators, seed funding programs, portfolio investments and fund to funds (200+ contracts in all).

Michigan Employers, Students Finding Success in MAT2 Program Model

Students often think that a successful career requires a four-year degree, but competitive training programs are starting to change that perception in Michigan.

Programs like Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2) offer students paid, on-the-job training while immersing them in the skilled trades in class. In addition to the invaluable experience, students gain the opportunity to work with organizations across the state, many of which are seeking future employees.

Since 2013, more than 1,000 students have applied to be part of MAT2, allowing participating companies to benefit from working with and training Michigan’s future workforce.

Mechanical Advantage

Rebekka Neumann, a current MAT2 student in the Mechatronics cohort at Henry Ford College, appreciates that the program doesn’t focus on the traditional type of learning and that the lessons she learns apply directly to her job.

“You’re doing a lot of the work you’d be doing at the workplace,” said Neumann “You’re learning with hands on experience, instead of just books.”

As the need for talent in Michigan’s skilled trades grows, so does the opportunity for students to take part in these programs.

Within the year, MAT2’s specialized programs will open in Baker College – Cadillac, Lansing Community College, Mott Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Henry Ford College and Delta College.


While not everything can be taught in MAT2’s classrooms, the hands-on experience that students receive at their jobs creates an engaging and realistic dual education system that produces optimal training for future careers.

“There are things that you can’t learn at the MAT2 program, but the job training supplements that,” Neumann said.

Similar to a four-year university, MAT2 students have the choice to select the specialized program that will best fit their needs and skills sets. Under the MAT2 umbrella, programs dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) allow students a broad range of training choices.

Mechatronics, IT Technician, Technical Product Design (TPD) and Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) are programs continuing to expand to Michigan’s community colleges and technical schools, bringing more notice to a program unlike any of its kind.

These programs fit the MAT2 model of a work/education blend while putting focus on each trade’s specific training needs.

One field that has gained interested is information technology (IT).

Secure-24 , a premier provider of managed IT operations, is one Michigan-based business that serves as a sponsor of the MAT2 program, and currently has four students working at their Southfield location.

Matt Goodrich, a special projects manager for the IOC at Secure-24 and MAT2 program chair, sees the program as a winning combination for the students, companies and industry as a whole.

“MAT2 is unique in the fact that it’s shifting the paradigm of the way organizations find employees and help them grow,” Goodrich said. “This new approach is changing how we develop the future workforce.”

With the skills and experience gained right out of high school, students engaging in IT and other STEM positions are creating pathways to lasting careers while filling the talent gap in Michigan.

“Programs like MAT2 are the future of education and industry,” Goodrich continued. “It’s rare to see a program that offers benefits in so many diverse ways, which is why MAT2 is finding success early on.”

While there are clear benefits to earning a four-year degree, there are also emerging opportunities in specialized training programs yielding careers in growing industries.

For Rebekka and other MAT 2 students, the combination of education and real-world experience is helping them stand out to future employers while gaining personal and professional growth.

Pure Michigan Talent Connect is inviting Michigan employers to participate in the Fall 2015 program. For more information and to learn about the many employer benefits, visit http://www.mitalent.org/mat2-employer-information/

Michigan Supply Chain Innovation Summit - Register Today

Supply Chain

The inaugural Michigan Supply Chain Innovation Summit, taking place August 30-31 in Dearborn, reflects a new emphasis on the importance and priority of the state's supply chain network. Every company and every job in Michigan is affected by the supply chain, which includes logistics, warehousing, distribution, inventory management, production planning, staff optimization, data integration, and much more. The conference will be hosted by Prima Civitas and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The Summit features industry experts who are pushing the boundaries in complexity, management, talent development and leadership, and Omni channel supply chain integration, to name a few topics.

Click here to register online today.

Interested in becoming a sponsor? Click here to register online as a sponsor, or contact Scott Fleming at s.fleming@primacivitas.org about the opportunities to be part of this exceptional event.

CAR Management Briefing Seminars


CAR Events are designed to disseminate key research, update stakeholders on critical industry issues, and foster discussions among industry thought leaders to share their insights and solutions to meeting the challenges of an ever-evolving global automotive industry.

For information on how to partner with CAR on an event, or to put our conference experience to work for you, please contact Lisa Hart, Vice President of Operations at 734.929.0465 or lhart@cargroup.org.

CAR Management Briefing Seminars - August 3-6, 2015

Grand Traverse Resort & Spa | Traverse City

Initiated by the University of Michigan in 1965, the first Management Briefing Seminars (MBS) hosted only 30 people. When the industry was at its highest number of employment, the event grew to attract more than 1,400 attendees annually from more than 35 states and 15 countries−representing industry, academia, media and the government. 

CAR MBS leads the industry in providing a context for auto industry stakeholders to discuss critical issues and emerging trends while fostering new industry relationships in daily networking sessions. The annual, world-class CAR MBS takes place each August at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, Traverse City, Michigan, USA. Seminars include targeted sessions on manufacturing strategy, vehicle lightweighting, connected and automated vehicles, advanced powertrain, supply chain, sales forecasting, purchasing, talent, and designing for technology.

To view these and other events, please click here to visit CAR's Event Calendar.

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