Emily DeRocco, Director of Education and Workforce for Lightweighting Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT)

Emily DeRocco, Director of Education and Workforce for Lightweighting Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT)

By James A. Mitchell

When discussing the technologies that are changing the way we live and work, Emily DeRocco said that focus will be crucial to the future workforce.

“We want to bring a real focus on the need to understand technology, and be ready when research and innovation moves from laboratory to production,” said DeRocco, director of education and workforce for Lightweighting Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT), a public-private consortium focused on advanced manufacturing materials.

“What we are experiencing is truly a technological revolution almost all the time,” she said.

DeRocco serves on a Workforce Intelligence Network panel that will soon unveil results of the Eureka! project, an in-depth survey of Michigan industry to determine the workplace impact of high-tech. LIFT is among seven institutes – each with a specialty area – dedicated to embracing rather than resisting new technologies.

The findings will be released as part of a special event on Oct. 20. To register, click here.

“This is a constant, thriving force,” DeRocco said. With an emphasis on current and future manufacturing needs, DeRocco said the skills gap may be more pronounced than in many fields. “We need higher-skilled workers with different abilities in the past. Many manufacturing jobs have been automated, but the factories aren’t operating in the dark. They need people programming, monitoring and maintaining the equipment.”


Exactly how the new technologies have affected the industry framed the survey of nearly 200 Michigan companies, based on global surveys and research by McKinsey & Co. and fine-tuned to Michigan’s economy and opportunities. WIN and survey panelists explored how innovative technologies have affected workers, education and industry, and ho
w people do their jobs at all levels.

“We have a challenge attracting and making sure educational pathways are teaching them the needed skills,” DeRocco said. Of particular interest will be how technologies such as 3D printing and connected or automated products will transform regional business.

Questions included how the way we do business, create new jobs and shape talent have changed, and will continue to do so. Career paths need not remain within any given industry, whether manufacturing or across sectors.

“There are a million tech jobs across every industry,” DeRocco said. “It’s a great opportunity for coming generations: They don’t have to look at a single career path or just one occupation.”

Eureka! results will be unveiled on Thursday, Oct. 20 when panelists meet in Detroit. DeRocco said the findings will help define industry partnerships and inform education and training.

Stats from a preliminary analysis show:

  • Survey respondents indicated that they are primarily in the fields of strategy and business development, human resources, and general management.
  • 43 percent of survey takers classified themselves as either having a lot of influence on hiring or are the final decision maker on hiring.
  • 34 percent of survey takers have a lot of influence or are the final decision maker for technology implementation.
  • Survey respondents indicated that the following will change in the workforce: increased productivity, increased hours working, increased collaboration among workers and managers, and more education needed to do the job.
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