DETROIT (Jan. 16, 12:50 p.m. ET) — Thousands of new jobs for Southeast Michigan were announced last week during the North American International Auto Show as part of expansions planned by automakers and suppliers.
But recruiting top engineers and others to fill those jobs remains a challenge.
Santosh Anishetty, head of North American passive safety and advanced driver assistance systems for Troy-based Continental Automotive Systems Inc., said Continental is struggling to fill its more than 150 posted positions.
“I work with the business unit much more specific to electronics engineering, software elements, etc., and it's not very easy to find people,” he said. “[Recently] I had three people come for interviews and all three of them said “no' after we offered them a job. That never used to be the case.”
Anishetty said suppliers are losing out to local upstarts in the biomedical field and tech companies like Google.
“There are a lot of aspects [as to why they are not choosing auto suppliers],” he said. “A quality engineer with eight or 10 years of experience is a king, or queen, because they are often the most experienced at the place.”
The more than 300,000 jobs eliminated during the industry downturn caused talent to look elsewhere, said Neil De Koker, president and CEO of Troy, Mich.-based Original Equipment Suppliers Association.
“The bottom line is the sense of security we lost,” he said. “The technically qualified people we lost have joined other parts of the industry and the question is: How do we get those people back?”
The region and automotive industry also suffers from an image problem, Anishetty said.
“The first thing [candidates] bring up is the news item they heard about Detroit, like how it's cheaper to buy a house than it is to buy a car,” he said. “We absolutely have an image problem.”
The state of Michigan, under Gov. Rick Snyder, recognized the need for engineers in the industry and launched Pure Michigan Talent Connect (www.mitalent.org) in December to connect job seekers and employers.
There are about 70,000 jobs — many of which are in the auto industry — on the portal, Snyder told reporters last week at NAIAS.
“If we filled all of those today, we'd drop our unemployment by about two percentage points,” he said.
Plus, the jobs typically pay well. The average automotive engineer earned a salary between $55,955 and $117,916 in 2011, according to Payscale.com.
Among the local job expansions announced at the show:
• Nissan Motors Co. Ltd. announced it will hire 150 this year at its Nissan Technical Center North America in Farmington Hills and an additional 60 in 2013. The increase is due to Nissan putting more vehicles into production in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil, said Carla Bailo, Nissan Technical Center North America president.
• Hyundai America Technical Center Inc. announced a $15 million expansion of its research and development facility in Superior Township, which will lead to 50 engineering jobs.
• Fort Mill, S.C.-based Schaeffler Group North America announced it would hire 1,000 employees in 2012, including 150 engineers at its technical centers, including its Troy location.
• Denso International America Inc. announced expansion of its Southfield headquarters to house labs for battery cooling and in-dash technology engineering. The new labs will come with up to 50 new jobs.
• Tata Group unveiled its $20,000 electric car, the eMo, at NAIAS, designed in part from its engineering staff at its Novi subsidiary Tata Technologies Inc. Tata has hired more than 500 employees across metro Detroit and is looking to fill 107 more positions in 2012, said Daniel Saad, director of communications for North America.
A complete version of this story is available at www.crainsdetroit.com.