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 Automotive, Workforce

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

Delphi buying connector maker Antaya

September 22, 2014 2:25 pm ET

Delphi Automotive plc will buy Antaya Technologies Corp., a Rhode Island company that supplies wire harnesses and other technologies that connect...    More

Image

Poland's Boryszew to work with Mitsui on lightweight auto parts

September 22, 2014 10:12 am ET

European plastics car parts maker Boryszew Group has signed a letter of intent to work with the Japanese investment and trading conglomerate Mitsui & ...    More

Image

Plasan investing in capacity, jobs to supply auto market with carbon fiber

September 19, 2014 3:05 pm ET

Growth in the emerging automotive market for carbon-fiber composites has spurred a $29 million investment in a Walker, Mich., factory    More

Image

Toyoda Gosei expanding in Mexico

September 19, 2014 2:33 pm ET

Toyoda Gosei North America Corp. is investing $67 million in a 398,000-square-foot plant in central Mexico to supply the automotive industry with...    More

Exo-s buys injection and blow molder in Mexico, expands footprint

September 19, 2014 2:15 pm ET

Custom molder Exo-s Inc. has bought an injection and blow molding operation in San Juan del Rio, Querétaro, Mexico.    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook – North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

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

More Events