By BRENDAN PREBO
AVP, Marketing & Communications
Washtenaw Community College played a key role in the inaugural Future Automotive Career Exposition (FACE) held January 20-21 at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).
FACE provided a forum for job seekers to talk to employers as well as attend information sessions about careers in the auto industry.
One such session was a panel discussion on education and workforce development titled, “How Higher Education is Focused on Mobility,” featuring WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca and Kali Wealch, a student studying powertrain testing at WCC’s Advanced Transportation Center.
Bellanca compared education to a highway in which job seekers would enter and exit the educational environment to learn new skills or earn additional credentials needed to advance in their careers.
“Lifelong learning is the new model for education and training,” she said, “rather than a pathway with a specific start and end,” she said.
Wealch is one student that is living the new educational model. Wealch’s journey began as a dual enrollment student taking classes at WCC, while still attending high school.
Wealch started with classes in the Business program, but quickly discovered it was not a good fit for her. By looking at her personal interests, her academic advisor encouraged her to pursue a more active and hands-on program in Occupational Education. There, Wealch discovered an interest in welding that led her to an internship with Toyota at its Technical Center in Saline.
“At Toyota I worked on the new Avalon, which is being shown here at the auto show,” she said. “It’s really exciting to be able to see a car that you worked on featured in a show like this.”
After her first internship working in the fabrication department, Wealch’s supervisor at Toyota encouraged her to take classes in engine testing and development and invited her back for a second internship.
Now Wealch is looking for a full-time job at a major manufacturer and plans to take classes online from Ferris State University to earn her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology and Management.
MICHauto executive director Glenn Stevens joined Bellanca and Wealch on the panel. Stevens used the new features on the cars at the auto show to point out the importance of information technology and programming skills to the industry. According to Stevens, today’s connected vehicles require an enormous amount of programing and software development.
“While the typical iPhone app has 50,000 lines of code and a military drone uses 3 million lines of code, a high-end new car has 100 million lines of code in its software,” Stevens said.
“The college has integrated information technology into the three pillars of the its advanced transportation programs — Intelligent Transportation Systems, Advanced Manufacturing and Automotive Transportation Servicing programs,” said Bellanca.
WCC has updated and added to its certificate, degree and transfer programs and workforce development courses to better prepare individuals for careers in the mobility industry.
Examples of programs now offered include associate degrees in mechatronics, cybersecurity and powertrain development.
Through its Workforce Development department, WCC is offering courses in mobility, fiber optic technician training and data analytics.