Auto suppliers struggling to find qualified engineers

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

Published: December 27, 2013 8:47 am ET
Updated: December 27, 2013 8:49 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Workforce, Automotive

As North American vehicle production rises, suppliers are scrambling to find many types of engineers: mechanical, software, electrical, manufacturing -- you name it.

Last month, a survey of 100 North American suppliers revealed that 90 percent planned to expand their engineering staffs. Of those, 75 percent said they were having trouble finding candidates, according to the survey by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association.

Suppliers "have got so many vehicle programs to launch that it's crazy," says Neil De Koker, president emeritus of OESA. "There's a tremendous amount of overtime."

Software engineers are in especially high demand as automakers add infotainment, collision avoidance systems and other high-tech gadgetry.

The additional content is straining the engineering resources of suppliers at a time when automakers are expanding their lineups.

In 2014, automakers will launch 33 new vehicles in North America, up from 18 this year, according to IHS Automotive of suburban Detroit. The glut of new products has triggered an acute shortage of experienced engineers, as automakers prepare for the launches.

As a result, suppliers often have to settle for engineers with less experience and train them. According to the survey, 45 percent of respondents said they needed to boost their training budgets by more than 10 percent.

Suppliers' "hope is that these engineers will stay with them," De Koker says. "The minute you train them, they're worth more."

Not surprisingly, compensation is rising. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they expect to increase bonuses next year.

De Koker says a supplier executive recently told him that a candidate for an engineering job had verbally committed to join his company -- only to renege when an automaker offered $20,000 more.

The OESA survey did not ask suppliers to divulge their pay scales. But data from Michigan State University's College of Engineering show that starting salaries are rising.

This year, the average starting salary for MSU engineering graduates is $62,900, up from $56,200 in 2008. Starting salaries for computer scientists average $71,900, up from $60,600 five years ago.

Those salaries are likely to rise more, says Garth Motschenbacher, director of employer relations at MSU's College of Engineering.

"We are not producing enough engineers," he says. "Over the next 18 months, you're going to see some huge jumps in salaries."

While engineers of all types are in short supply, competition for software engineers is especially fierce.

"It's a bidding war," says Manuela Papadopol, global marketing director for Elektrobit, a software developer in Nuremberg, Germany.

Elektrobit, which helps develop software for Ford Sync, maintains technical centers in suburban Detroit and Seattle. The company has about 100 U.S. employees, mostly engineers, and it wants to expand its work force 20 percent next year.

It won't be easy. "We have to fight Microsoft and Amazon and Google for talent," Papadopol says. "It's the reality."


Comments

Auto suppliers struggling to find qualified engineers

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

Published: December 27, 2013 8:47 am ET
Updated: December 27, 2013 8:49 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Lund adds to aftermarket auto products portfolio with buy of Bushwacker

January 29, 2015 2:49 pm ET

Lund International Inc. has expanded its portfolio of plastic aftermarket vehicle accessories by acquiring Bushwacker Inc.    More

Image

Plastics News Now: Losing weight with style, plastics in the Dragons' Den

January 29, 2015 6:00 am ET

A 19-year-old entrepreneur brings business to a U.K. injection molder after winning support on TV's Dragons' Den, auto suppliers combine...    More

Image

Plastics help Volt hit new target

January 28, 2015 1:54 pm ET

The 2016 Volt, unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, features a sportier exterior design — GM calls it...    More

Image

Bain buying TI Automotive

January 27, 2015 8:49 am ET

After months of speculation, Auburn Hills, Mich.-based TI Automotive Ltd. entered into an agreement Tuesday to be acquired by private equity firm...    More

Image

Auto industry on the hunt for new lightweight materials

January 26, 2015 4:03 pm ET

The auto industry is focusing on lightweighting, and this is igniting a race to find new materials that can meet ever-changing performance needs of th...    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Automotive: Innovation & Emerging Trends

This special report newly released by PN and sponsored by The Conair Group examines current trends in the use of plastics in automotive, materials innovations and the changing landscape. It includes a review of legislative/regulatory activity impacting vehicle development and lightweighting, market opportunities & challenges for mold and toolmakers, innovative design strategies being implemented by major OEMs and suppliers, as well as a review of key indicators in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and China.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molding Market Analysis & Processor Rankings

Plastics News BUNDLED package contains our in-depth Market Analysis of the Injection Molding segment. You will gain keen insight on current trends and our economic outlook.

As a BONUS this includes PN's updated 2014 database of North American Injection Molders RANKED by sales volume. Sort, merge, mail & prospect by end market, materials processed, region, # of plants and more.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events