On Monday, the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber hosted the 2019 Workforce Pipeline Summit to discuss the future of the workforce in Michigan. The summit had a few hundred attendees, and was a day-long event with lectures on educational inequity and hiring practices. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Raffaele Mautone, CIO and vice president of Duo Security, presented keynote speeches. The event took place at Washtenaw Community College in the Morris Lawrence Building.
According to Richard Chang, CEO of the Ann Arbor company NewFoundry, a local software developer, and a main organizer of the event, the summit was created in order to address workforce issues that members of the chamber encounter.
“Workforce issues are one of the top issues/challenges our members face and it is our duty as an organization to help create a solution,” Chang wrote in an email to The Daily. “The pipeline summit was step one in a series to create solutions.”
Chang believes the main takeaway of the summit is to support local communities through hiring practices.
“If I can only choose one, I’d go with: look local, build local, hire local,” Chang wrote. “Invest in our community for long term economic viability and sustainability.”
Whitmer spoke about the state budget and prioritizing infrastructure issues such as the roads, education and clean water. Whitmer also addressed her proposal for an increase of the gas tax and remedial measures in the plan that seek to compensate the working poor and senior citizens.
“No one wants to raise the gas tax,” Whitmer said. “I don’t enjoy putting the solution on the table, but it is about time that we have serious conversation about where we are headed as a state and what it’s going to take to fix these problems. Fifteen cent gas tax increase this fall, going up another 15 cents six months later, and 15 cents after that, actually puts us in a position to solve all of the problems that I just went over.”
Mautone spoke about his personal journey from graduating from college at Eastern Michigan University, to working as a waiter in Austin, Texas, to getting hired and trained by Dell. According to Mautone, Dell recruited young people who worked in the service industry that developed good communication and problem-solving skills and fit well into the company’s culture.
Mautone said his experience taught him local companies should reconsider what they look for when hiring employees. He cautioned this mindset must also apply to management.
“I want you to take a chance and change jobs,” Mautone said. “That is what we did at Duo, that is why Rich asked me to be here. We started looking through a different lens, and with that, we were able to find local talent. So you might be saying to yourself, Raffaele, I believe in that. But does your management team? Because see that’s where I started looking next. I was saying to everyone, we’re going to find interns, we’re going to transform individuals that are in the industry or not in this industry, but want to be in tech, want to be in IT, want to be in cybersecurity, and let’s enable them. But if you don’t have the right infrastructure or mindset within your organization, even in the next layer within your management team, it won’t work. And I found that out fairly quickly.”
Ida Abdalkhani, the founder and president of Ability to Engage, a marketing and consumer research company, said one of the reasons she attended the summit was to learn how to best engage the community and hire locally. Abdalkhani said this has been difficult to do.
“I wanted to learn more, myself being an entrepreneur, and needing to find hires — it’s been incredibly difficult to find people in Ann Arbor, the majority of people that I work with are actually outside of Michigan, and so it’s a topic that I’m interested in to learn about,” Abdalkhani said. “How can I, as someone who’s looking for people in the state and in Ann Arbor, think differently about how to approach the topic?”
LSA senior Zach Tingley attended the summit with the University’s Poverty Solutions organization. Tingley said the summit made him aware of how managers’ hiring practices affect the makeup of the workforce.
“I never really think about managerial practices and things of that nature,” Tingley said. “I thought it was really interesting listening to these new hiring practices that he was talking about. I really appreciated being very conscious of the way that company’s hiring practices affect the workforce and affect access to the workforce, and I think I learned a lot from that actually.”
Tingley said he appreciated the speakers’ focus on skills that cannot necessarily be found on a resume.
“I really appreciate the approach they’re taking with recognizing people’s disadvantages and recognize their abilities in their purest forms that aren’t necessarily on their resume, but really growing with people,” Tingley said.