- – Auto makers becoming tech companies
- – The automotive industry is seeking new types of talent
- – 32% of workers in the motor vehicle equipment manufacturing industry are under 35
- – Will big brands move to Silicon Valley to attract Millennials, or keep roots in Detroit?
- – New company culture needed to attract the right talent
Technological advancements move quickly and the auto industry is struggling to keep up with the fast pace. Each brand seems to up the anti with new features, specifications and software, pushing the industry’s technological capabilities to the limit. “The average vehicle today has about 50 computer processors that control everything from engine control units (ECUs) to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as parking assist and adaptive cruise control,” Lucas Mearian of ComputerWorld reports.
Admittedly, this type of competition is the catalyst for advancement within an industry – one-upmanship that causes rapid advancements that go beyond industry expectations. “To break new ground, auto companies are becoming tech companies,” Jeremiah Owyang of Venture Beat reports. “They’re partnering with Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.”
Auto Makers or Software Developers?
Just a few decades ago it would have been difficult to imagine the auto industry developing advanced software and mobile technology, but that’s exactly what’s happening. “This isn’t your grandfather’s automotive company any more,” management and technology consultant Jon Allen tells ComputerWorld. “Fundamentally, the auto industry cannot be seen as just auto makers any more. They’re mobile [and software] developers.”
Top Brands Seeking New Types of Talent
Electrical engineers are the hot hire for the auto industry as the focus on vehicle integration of consumer electronics and mobile technology intensifies. “If you look at our hiring statistics,” Ken Kelzer, GM’s Global VP of Vehicle Components and Subsystems told Forbes, “15 years ago it was by far mostly mechanical engineers, now you’re seeing that change significantly to the electrical side.”
Recruiters in the auto industry are looking for top talent in critical areas like:
- – Computer software programmers and engineers
- – Autonomous driving engineers
- – 3D printing engineers
- – Security engineers
- – System engineers
- – Analytics experts
- – Web programmers
- – Sustainability integration experts
- – Digital sculptors
Detroit Renaissance or Exodus?
Whether it’s the industry’s relation to non-environmentalism (a strike to many young, socially conscious prospects), or other pre-conceived notions about the auto industry, Millennials aren’t lining up with their CVs. “You take a person out of Silicon Valley or MIT, they look at the auto industry as antiquated,” Kelzer told Forbes, which points out that “those who possess the skill set that GM and other automakers are increasingly seeking tend to take their talents to Silicon Valley, and the prospect of a career at a car company in Detroit doesn’t immediately generate enthusiasm among a crowd headed for sunshine and sweatshirts.”
With location a pertinent issue, automakers are trying to attract the country’s top IT talent by relocating. Since 2011, Ford, General Motors, BWM, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan-Renault and Toyota have all opened research and development or technology centers in Silicon Valley.
The technological focuses for each brand are diverse, but include battery technology and improved electric vehicles, autonomous vehicle development, human-machine interface technology, connected vehicles and cyber security. “I think just about everybody is [in Silicon Valley]. You need to be there to learn about what’s going on. You can’t learn those things remotely,” Egil Juliussen, research director at IHS Automotive told ComputerWorld.
Although most automakers are developing tech centers in the west, a number aren’t yet ready to uproot their presence in the east. “30% of GM’s post-bankruptcy workforce is new,” GM CEO Mary Barra told Forbes. “Many young professionals are attracted to the idea of participating in Detroit’s renaissance, and taking their skills to a city where they have the opportunity to own a home.”
Ultimately, automakers will have more luck adopting a new culture than relying on a popular location when attracting a Millennial workforce. Thirty-two per cent of workers employed in the motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment manufacturing industry are under 35 years of age, according to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. If the industry wants to court the country’s top technological minds it must meet the needs of this younger demographic group, including adapting “culture and processes to appeal to a younger, more entrepreneurial and collaborative workforce,” Katherine Dill of Forbes writes. This change has taken a number of forms, including physical changes to the work space that promote informal collaboration.
In the age of the machine it’s important to remember that brilliantly talented people are behind the vehicle advancements that graze the headlines of our daily news digests. And the truth is, the brands that are able to attract and retain the world’s top technological minds will be in the best position to lead as industry forerunners.
Autonews. JS Library for Interactive Maps. Map tiles by Stamen Design. CC By 3.0. Copyright OpenStreetMap. Contributors CC-BY-SA. Online:http://www.autonews.com/section/map502&iframe=true&width=960&height=540
Dill, Katherine. The Auto Industry Jobs of the Future. Forbes. May 18, 2015. Online: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryndill/2015/05/18/the-auto-industry-jobs-of-the-future-and-why-they-sound-more-tech-startup-than-carmaker/2/#547100434526
Mearian, Lucas. Why Detroit is Moving to Silicon Valley. ComputerWorld. December 30, 2015. Online: http://www.computerworld.com/article/3017985/car-tech/detroit-is-moving-to-silicon-valley.html
Owyang, Jeremiah. Auto Industry Goes Head-to-Head with Silicon Valley’s Self-Driving Innovators. VentureBeat. January 12, 2016. Online: http://venturebeat.com/2016/01/12/auto-industry-goes-head-to-head-with-silicon-valleys-self-driving-innovators/
United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey – Employed Persons by Detailed Industry and Age, 2013 Annual Averages. Accessed April 20, 2016. Online: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat18b.htm