I was talking with some colleagues from the supply base recently. Finding the number of high caliber engineers required to develop the new product demanded by OEM programs was an almost universal challenge. The available pool of engineers is not only depleted due to the migration of experienced engineers away from traditional automotive homelands (and many out of the industry), but it is also troubling that new graduates are not enthused by the prospect of joining the industry. And this against the backdrop of SAARs for this year that are keeping pace with predictions that many viewed as optimistic even in Q4 of last year.
Other dynamics affecting the workforce are the evolving multi-disciplinary skillset that is required for current and future programs and the difficulty in winning available high quality candidates when suppliers are in competition with the OEMs themselves. The latter issue can be made worse by the fact that the tiers are actually a great recruiting ground for the OEMs who are often able to pay more and lure supplier employees away.
In a couple of weeks there is a conference called Driving Change supported by a research consortium of the Indiana, Michigan and Ohio Labor Market Information offices that will set out to bring representatives from the automotive industry, educators and HR to network and discuss the skills required for the future of our industry. Hopefully this meeting will provide a foundation for fixing the long term requirement.
In the short term a greater reliance on contract labor is often the answer. The Altair ProductDesign Staffing Services team has told me they are seeing a significant increase in the number of requisitions that they are being asked to fill both for contract and direct positions.
Despite the challenges I know we are all happier with this problem that the one we faced in 2008…
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