Photo By Steve Kuzma Washtenaw Community College President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca speaks at the 2015 MICHAuto Summit.

Photo By Steve Kuzma
Washtenaw Community College President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca speaks at the 2015 MICHAuto Summit.

WCC part of state’s effort to lead the future of connected vehicle technology

Hundreds of influential automotive, academic and governmental thoughtleaders recently gathered at the 2015 MICHAuto Summit at Cobo Hall to glimpse the future—the not-too-distant future.

They were there to discuss how Michigan is positioning itself to be the global leader in advanced mobility and connected vehicle technology … a technology that will see cars talking to cars and cars talking to infrastructure.

Washtenaw Community College President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca, in her role as Chair of the Region 9 Talent Council, part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Michigan Regional Prosperity Initiative, delivered a presentation at the Summit in a session titled, “Talent and Culture Transformation in the New Automotive World.” Region 9 includes Jackson, Hillsdale, Lenawee, Monroe, Livingston and Washtenaw counties.

Bellanca’s remarks focused on how business, education and non-profit leaders in Region 9 came together to create a collective vision on how to address the talent needs of the country’s rapidly changing transportation systems.

“We learned that transportation is transforming in ways we never thought possible,” said Bellanca during her remarks. “Business and industry leaders in our region told us they are in need of employees who have the skills needed to perform the jobs of today and the jobs of the near future.”

WCC has taken the lead in meeting these employment needs with its Advanced Transportation Center, which will provide training for the rapidly growing industries of intelligent transportation systems, advanced manufacturing and automotive transportation servicing.

Bellanca’s presentation highlighted several examples of education and business partnerships which have created educational pathways for 21st century careers.

She noted the partnership between the Jackson Area Manufacturing Association and Jackson elementary schools which produced a series of summer camps that included projects for students using Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines – academic areas that are needed to provide crucial skill sets for advanced transportation jobs.

Another key partnership Bellanca highlighted was between the Square One Education Network in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Transportation. This partnership gave students at Clinton High School a chance to participate in the 2015 Intelligent Transportation System World Congress Youth Connections Showcase, where they assembled a connected car which performed extremely well in the competition.

“These types of experiences for students are vitally important because we are seeing ‘disruptive innovation’ occurring in the business world and they need to be prepared,” said Bellanca. “This disruption is driving economic opportunity and creating new jobs that require new skills in advanced transportation. Our society will benefit because these new automotive technologies will increase driver safety, reduce accidents and help reduce emissions pollution.”

Bellanca also participated in a roundtable discussion at the Summit, – the only educator asked to comment on the vital role community colleges play in training students with the skills necessary to design, build and repair connected car technology.

Dr. Peter Sweatman, Director, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Director of the Michigan Mobility Transformation Center, also spoke at the Summit with a presentation titled: “MCity, Putting Michigan’s Economy On The Connected Fast Track.”

Sweatman has endorsed the work of WCC’s Advanced Transportation Center. “WCC is preparing to address one of the most important challenges facing a national deployment of connected vehicle technology: qualified, job-ready employees who are trained in the latest intelligent transportation systems. WCC faculty and students will play a part in transforming our current transportation system as well as playing a critical role in the revitalization of Michigan’s economy.”

For information about WCC’s Advanced Transportation Center, visit wccnet.edu/atc.

By Susan Ferraro, APR