ANN ARBOR – We live in a very tumultuous time with the pandemic and Black Live Matter riots and Detroit is one of the centers of activity. I grew up in Detroit many years ago. I was in grade school, Edison, and later Redford High.

I started college as a freshman at the University of Michigan in 1955. When I look back at those years I realize I got a great education in the city of Detroit. I think six of us from my grade school class ended up with PhD’s.

David E. Cole

When I left Redford to attend U of M, people warned me that this would be the hardest thing I had ever done. As it turned out I had four straight years of a 4.0 grade point average. The Detroit schools were very special and provided a wonderful foundation for future careers.

What has become very clear to me as the riots and demonstrations continue in major cities, the key to the future for the inner-city residents is a solid education.

As we look at the chaos of today, one thing is very clear, we are not educating our young people at a level that will assure the students of a bright future. It is clear that without an appropriate education it will be very difficult for Detroit young people to find a good job, particularly in this era of exploding technology and greater international competition.

Several years ago, I spent a day at Cody High, one of the Detroit city high schools. Some friends from GM were working with the school to help support education of the students. The principal told me that most kids had a single parent and the boys had to belong to a gang to survive. In an article related to statewide performance on the standardized tests (ACT, SAT) Detroit boys’ pass rate was about 3 percent, which is dramatically lower that other school districts.

What has become very clear to me as the riots and demonstrations continue in major cities, the key to the future for the inner-city residents is a solid education. With all the talk about racial inequality and discrimination, I have concluded that the one thing not talked about today is the education of young people. We have to bring this issue to center stage and become a central focus of our efforts to address racial inequality in our country.

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Cole is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the automotive industry. Born in 1937, Cole is the son of former General Motors President and fellow Hall of Fame Inductee Edward Cole. His father was instrumental in developing some of GM’s major breakthroughs, like the small-block V8, and there is little doubt that his father’s position at GM had a strong impact on Cole’s life. Cole would attend the University of Michigan, where he would earn three mechanical engineering degrees and a doctorate. While at Michigan, Cole worked extensively on internal combustion engines and vehicle design. He would later teach engineering at the university and become the director of the college’s Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation.

In 2003, Cole helped launch the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, an organization dedicated to research on important automotive industry issues like fuel economy, globalization, and manufacturing. Cole is also a former Director of the Automotive Hall of Fame and the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, and has helped found numerous automotive research and education start-ups, including Auto Harvest, a collaboration website for automotive industry personnel to help cultivate innovation within the industry. Cole also helped create an organization called Building America’s Tomorrow, a non-profit organization that aims to raise funds for developing educational programs for kids in grades K-12 to create a pipeline of manufacturing talent.

Cole is especially interested in nurturing new talent on the manufacturing side of the automotive industry. “Kids don’t have manufacturing on their radar screen,” Cole said in a 2013 interview with “As the baby boomers retire, we don’t have a pipeline of talent to replace them. We have failed to get the message to young people about where the opportunities are in manufacturing…. We’ve gotten away from the idea that manufacturing is important.”