Understanding and Addressing the Auto Industry’s Talent Shortage


The auto industry is creating jobs. Over the next decade, self-driving cars and electric cars will help generate approximately 100,000 jobs – including 30,000 engineer jobs – in the United States, according to the Boston Consulting Group and Detroit Mobility Lab. Yet, the industry is already struggling to fill open positions. What is driving this talent shortage?

The Challenge

A survey conducted by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association and KPMG found that 51 percent of respondents expect access to highly skilled/technical labor in the United States to worsen. As the auto industry pivots to face this challenge, it will help understand why the talent pool has shrunk.

  • The need for new skills. The automotive industry has historically operated as a manufacturing business, but the rise of new options (like self-driving cars and electric cars) is increasingly making the industry into a tech business, according to Forbes. This means auto companies need a different set of skills to fill jobs built around these new technologies. Technology is intersecting with so many other industries, which means the automotive business have to compete for tech talent not only within their own industry but outside of it as well.
  • A different kind of workforce. Baby Boomers are increasingly reaching retirement age, while Millennials are now the largest portion of the workforce, according to Pew Research Center. And, this younger generation approaches work differently than their predecessors.

More than a third of auto engineers (34 percent) are a part of the Millennial generation, according to a study from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research. The study found that Millennial auto engineers are less likely to recommend an employer than Baby Boomers, but more likely criticize their employer online. Addressing the talent shortage will mean understanding what Millennials, now the biggest part of the workforce, want in a job and an employer.

Attracting Talent

Solving a talent shortage will likely require automotive companies to approach recruiting and retaining employees in a different way. For example, the Weber Shandwick and KRC Research study highlights the importance of employer brand. A trusted employer brand is built on transparent values and company culture. The study found that auto engineers that feel aligned with their company are more likely to recommend their employer, more likely to stay with their employer, and more likely to be productive.

In addition to talent acquisition programs at individual companies, larger auto industry hubs can play a role in attracting the people necessary to fill jobs. Boston Consulting Group and Detroit Mobility Lab offer the example of Detroit, which is actively supporting AV test facilities from the American Center for Mobility and the University of Michigan’s Mcity. Additionally, Ford is planning to open its own smart vehicle innovation center in downtown Detroit, according to the report.

Finding the right talent may be a challenge, but the right approach and the willingness to embrace change will help fill jobs in the automotive industry.

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