Erika Nielsen - MAGMA/BorgWarner - 2019 MFG Talent Champion

To Erika Nielsen, talent is the backbone and the foundation of strong businesses. Continued investment in Michigan’s talent base is essential and more important than ever.

“The talent shortage is a widely known challenge for the automotive industry and manufacturers, large and small and in every region and sector of manufacturing,” Nielsen would point out. “For the longest time, it felt like many companies were individually trying to overcome this obstacle — none of us were gaining much ground alone.”

Under Nielsen’s leadership, BorgWarner began to strategically identify and invest in opportunities to enhance talent in Michigan. She urged her fellow leaders to collaborate for the betterment of the whole industry and sought ways for BorgWarner to be a larger voice in the talent discussion.

The Michigan Alliance for Greater Mobility Advancement (MAGMA) is a consortium of automotive companies, educational institutions, state agencies, and training providers seeking methods to address and overcome the mobility industry’s skills gap and workforce challenges. In 2016, Nielsen became the co-chair of the MAGMA Governing Board, helping the organization increase its membership through determination and strategic thinking.

“MAGMA offers employers a platform for meaningful conversations about improving workforce development,” Nielsen explained. “Sharing best practices, lessons learned and new ideas are really important for the industry’s future. We’re all doing great things and can now come together to build a deeper vision for talent, which will lead to a bigger impact for Michigan.”

Positive momentum built with her MAGMA peers drove Nielsen to extend her focus beyond industry convening and into action with an eye toward putting talent development programs to work.

Through MAGMA and BorgWarner, Nielsen championed effective utilization of Michigan’s Going PRO Talent Fund, the State of Michigan’s workforce development training program. Since 2016 BorgWarner has partnered with Going PRO to enhance the technical skills of over 500 employees. Seeing an opportunity to stretch available talent dollars, Nielsen helped create the first Going PRO-supported consortium training at MAGMA in 2019.

She also encouraged talent experts across the state to share feedback on the industry’s middle-skills technician needs to support research at the Economic Growth Institute (EGI) at the University of Michigan. This well-coordinated and direct feedback from businesses will help EGI better identify current workforce gaps and better prepare educational institutions for the talent needs of the future.

Whether planning the most effective talent funding strategy or widening the forums to share knowledge, Nielsen is committed to using BorgWarner’s industry experience and her platform as a leader in government affairs to shine a spotlight on talent issues with stakeholders at the state and federal levels.

At BorgWarner, Nielsen is a graduate of “Admired Leadership,” part of the company’s executive leadership program that brings leaders together to create excellence in leadership through driving results and inspiring loyal followership. By developing their talent and encouraging them to be students of the industry, a stronger and more sustainable culture is built.

“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with and I’ve been lucky to surround myself with some superstars — my government affairs team at BorgWarner, leaders from partnering companies within MAGMA, and others from across Michigan,” said Nielsen. “You need diversity in thoughts and experiences to be successful. You need people who are motivated to solve big problems. You need people who can get knocked down and get right back up. The people I work with are all those things, so I see the MFG Talent Champion, being honored in this way, as a reflection of the people I work with daily.”

The MFG Talent Champion recognizes an individual who works to bring focus to the critical need of attracting Michigan’s next generation workforce to manufacturing’s variety of career options. The award is presented at the annual MFG Excellence Awards in November.