Feeding the beast: New job demands in the mobility sector

With the country’s accelerating march to self-driving and electric cars, tens of thousands of jobs are expected to open up nationally in the coming decade.

The question is: Is the workforce prepared?

There are gaps in education and a shortage of talent in the changing automotive industry, especially for engineers and skilled trade workers, according to representatives from the automotive, human resources and educational institutions who participated in a panel discussion, “Feeding the Beast: Keeping up With the Demand for Mobility Talent,” at AutoMobili-D.

The panel offered advice about education, job training and skills needed in the emerging mobility sector, which is competing with other modernizing industries for talent.

Moderated by Elaina Farnsworth, CEO of the Next Education, the panel included Robert Chiaravalli, president of Strategic Labor and Human Resources; Dr. Rose B. Bellanca, president of Washtenaw Community College; Joe LaRussa, director of Industrial Engineering at Brose North America; and John Bukowicz, president and CEO of LIASE Group & CCA.

Most of the discussion focused on the talent needed to support the industry, which has become more complex with the advances in technology. That landscape is no longer made up of traditional OEMS and suppliers but also startups. More engineers and sophisticated system-level skills will continue to be in-demand.

Prospective employees should also scout universities and events like the Detroit auto show to find out which skills are needed in the mobility and where to find the jobs and education. Employers, too, need to be more progressive in training employees to broaden skills and cultivate more proactive human resources departments to find and attract workers.

Brose, a German-based auto supplier, is hiring in various capacities around the globe, according to LaRussa, who also pointed out that prospective employees these days need higher technical skill sets and more education in computer software, given the convergence of mechanics and computer science in the automotive industry.

“We need more general surgery people,” he said, making an analogy to the medical field, emphasizing that generalists with advanced skills are needed more than specialists because of technological changes.

Washtenaw Community College’s Bellanca noted that’s where community colleges can play an important role, offering two-year degrees available to traditional students but also those already working. Continuing education will be necessary for all workers in the years ahead.

“You are never going to stop learning in the future,” she said.

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