Software is driving innovation, development and the technology revolution in Michigan, panelists said Monday at a discussion on high-tech careers that included Gov. Rick Snyder.
The event, “From Math Class to Manfacturing: How Michigan Wins With Software,” was sponsored by Software.org and included remarks by the governor and local leaders in the software and tech industries.
Snyder said software jobs provide a huge opportunity for the state and desirable employment for Michigan residents. Michigan has 66,275 software-related jobs.
“These are high-paying jobs and they’re not tied to a four-year degree,” Snyder said. The governor said he would like to explore the possibility of offering curriculum-based IT and other software programs to high school students across the state.
Organizers said Michigan is the leader in automotive cyber security, and that the state’s mobility market is creating software jobs.
Sandy Baruah, the CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Michigan has become the “hottest technology market in the nation.”
He said Michigan is outpacing national growth in high-tech jobs, at 30 percent compared with 12 percent across the country.
“We know that the driver of economic progress will be the innovation and the development that comes from the technology driven by software,” Baruah said.
While the automotive industry is being transformed by software, he said “we will still need real machines ... we will still need agriculture but these industries will continue to be transformed by software-driven revolution and nowhere is this more evident than right here in the city of Detroit,” he said.
Training Michigan youngsters to become more proficient in math and science is the first step in preparing them for job as coders, who create computer software. Coders don’t require college degrees and can make $100,000 as a starting pay.
An estimated 147,000 IT and cyber security jobs have recently been created in Michigan, said John Hundt, chief business development officer and executive vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“A lot of software success stories are coming out of Detroit,” Hundt told an audience of about 125 at The Loft at Madison in downtown Detroit.
Stewart Thornhill, executive director for the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, said software coders and others are in big demand, including for projects that assist individuals with mobility problems.
Thornhill cautioned that Michigan is “suffering from underinvestment” in its students, a situation that could land it “on the wrong side of that curve” in the software technology wave.
Part of the challenge for Michigan companies and schools is getting those with software talent to remain in Michigan once they are educated, said Ned Staebler, the president and CEO of TechTown and vice president for economic development at Wayne State University.