Connecting Michiganders to jobs in today’s interconnected world

By Ron Leix

Technology is evolving in such a way that the everyday objects surrounding us are connected and talking to each other through the internet more than ever. Referred to as the Internet of Things — or IoT for short — items such as home appliances, autonomous vehicles and other high-tech items are converging within a technological ecosystem where everything is connected and exchanging data. It’s becoming our way of life.

On April 4, Gov. Rick Snyder had the opportunity to visit the IoT Tech Connect Conference in Troy to check out the latest developments in this emerging technology at the region’s largest IoT event. More than 1,000 attendees showed up to hear from industry thought leaders during keynote speeches and breakout sessions. Events like IoT Tech Connect are helping Michigan businesses create the relationships needed to excel in their field and maximize the economic momentum.

Michigan has incredible assets, many of which we have leveraged to create the economy we have now. But there is a lot more we can do to use the resources we have to continue growing our economy. Our state has always been a driving force for innovation. With the advancements happening in technology across our state today, we have a lot to be proud of. Technology is rapidly evolving, and we need to be proactive to stay ahead and remain the leader.

Through efforts like the Marshall Plan for Talent, Michigan is reinventing the way we develop, attract and invest in talent within Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. We’re continuing to help Michiganders fill high-tech, high-salary and in-demand jobs as the IT and computer science field continues rapid growth through our state. The state is facing a talent shortage across multiple industries — including the IoT field — and this threatens the state’s economic recovery.

The IoT conference provides an opportunity to help tie emerging technology and its thought leaders with Michigan’s next generation. While at the event, Snyder participated in a STEM interactive workshop where female students explored the new global curriculum sponsored by Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and many other partners.

Students learned some computer science basics by creating video game components in a mini code race. Afterward, they expanded upon their creation by taking one of their characters and creating an Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) design. For those who are wondering, AR adds digital elements to a live view often by using the camera on a smartphone, while VR implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world. Students who participated in the workshop left with free access to the platform to continue learning and exploring on their own at home.

The Governor joined Dr. Tonya Matthews, Michigan Science Center president and CEO, to talk with the students and learn about their interests in STEM. When asked why the students wanted to get involved in STEM, one young girl chimed in that she wanted to help more girls like her enter into the predominantly male field — to which her peers and mentors applauded.

According to the Computing Technology Industry Association’s 2018 “Cyberstates” report, Michigan ranks ninth for net tech employment (404,300) and third for net tech job gains (more than 13,400 from 2011–2017). The report also stated cybersecurity for transportation and defense are one of Michigan’s highest priorities and greatest strengths.

Why cybersecurity? Our state plays a vital role in identifying, protecting and responding to cyber threats that could significantly impact our individual and collective security and privacy. As we continue to build a safer environment in Michigan, safeguarding the individuals who are central in our defense against cyberattacks is paramount. As we become more and more connected through IoT, we must be ready to battle cybercriminals in the next frontier of innovation.

Gov. Snyder stops in a session to talk to conference attendees about the importance of cybersecurity.

Technology is rapidly transforming the workplace and yet we continue to develop talent the way we have for the past 200 years. Michigan needs to make dramatic, innovative changes to the way it prepares people for careers to address the expanding talent gap in key industries. Though efforts like IoT Tech Connect and the Marshall Plan, we are helping to keep our state and residents on the path toward a bright and successful future.

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