Coordination, leadership, and inclusivity are crucial to building out an EV workforce in Michigan

Recent momentum around growing EV and battery production in the United States has spurred more than 30 companies to announce investments totaling more than $20 billion in Michigan since 2019. Across Michigan, state and local leaders are working to prepare communities for this coming growth in EV and battery production facilities, including by creating programs to equip the current and future workforce with the skills and competencies needed to thrive in the transition.

In February, C2ES brought together more than 45 participants in a roundtable discussion to explore the shifting needs of the automotive industry and generate collaborative solutions to support the current and future workforce in Michigan. The future mobility industry includes all current and potential modes of transportation, such as electric vehicles (EVs), electrified public transportation, and autonomous vehicles. The workforce for this industry includes anyone manufacturing or servicing these modes of transportation. Participants represented companies and industry groups across the automotive industry, state and federal government, workforce development, higher education, and nonprofit sectors. The conversation builds on previous convenings we have hosted in the region, including our first roundtable on vehicle electrification in Michigan in 2022, our roundtable on critical materials and EV battery recycling in Ohio in December 2023, and our roundtable on low-carbon fuels in Minnesota in October 2023.

Insights from the discussion

To kick off the roundtable, we worked with participants to develop shared visions of what would define success in ten years. Participants envisioned a future in which Michigan capitalizes on its leadership in the advanced automotive industry to lead inclusive growth among the clean mobility workforce. They emphasized high wages, population growth, and retention of workers in the state as key indicators of success. Additionally, they articulated a vision of widespread collaboration and alignment among public and private organizations throughout the electric vehicle industry.

Today, Michigan is well-positioned to make that shared vision a reality. As the birthplace of the automotive industry, the state has a legacy of leadership not only in mobility, but also in technological innovation and entrepreneurship. The state has been hard at work anticipating the shifting needs of the future mobility workforce. Michigan’s training providers and educational institutions have launched widespread workforce development and skills training programs for all ages and skill levels, from STEM learning for students to EV-specific trainings for mid-career workers. State-led initiatives like the EV Jobs Academy and local-level collaborations with economic development organizations are gaining momentum, and the state legislature recently created the new Community and Worker Economic Transition Office to coordinate and accelerate efforts.

Despite this growing momentum, roundtable participants expressed an uncertainty among workers, employers, and policymakers about the future of the industry. While many new investments in the EV industry have been announced, we are still in the early stages of seeing new facilities break ground and begin hiring for the forecast Some jobs may transition away (e.g., fuel and exhaust systems), while others will be newly created (e.g., battery packs).

With support from state leadership, there is widespread consensus on the value of workforce development investments, but to date there is no singular coordinating body to foster collaboration, prevent duplication, and grow the impact of individual programs. Participants unanimously agreed that more collaboration among workforce training program providers, educators, and employers is crucial to providing a cohesive roadmap for the future of the industry.

What’s next?
In the roundtable, we developed collaborative, actionable solutions to achieve the shared vision for success, beginning with big-picture goals and leading to specific, near-term actions to achieve them.

Some solutions include:

  • Invest in placemaking to build a community of support for a person’s full 24 hours, including wraparound services such as housing, public transit/alternative modes of transport, and child-care. Using data to identify neighborhoods with lower labor force participation, state government should provide targeted technical assistance to communities to plan and seek resources for solutions to overcome barriers to entry into the workforce.
  • Create an anchor organization that coordinates among and is supported by employers to create an inclusive workforce. Key stakeholders from the roundtable and elsewhere across the state should convene to develop this organization and articulate its objectives.
  • Market EV jobs and careers to make them attractive and tangible to prospective workers. State agencies and employers should collaborate with existing state communications assets and programs (e.g., the Pure Michigan campaign) to promote career paths in the future mobility industry.

More solutions and insights from the discussion will be published in a forthcoming C2ES policy brief.