Help Wanted: Automakers Revving Up Engineering Jobs

Friday, 7 Sep 2012 | 12:58 PM ET

As the auto industry rebounds in the U.S. it is creating a strong demand for engineers. In fact, one recruiter said the auto industry is seeking more than a thousand engineers.

Toyota Dealership
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Toyota Dealership

The demand is so great, applicants often have multiple job offers and not just for jobs in the auto industry.

“The demand is as strong as I have ever seen it,” said Andrew Watt, CEO of the recruiting firm iTalent. “There is a huge shortage and anyone you can find with auto engineer experience of any kind will get an interview and probably get a job right now.” (Read More: Payrolls Rose only 96,000 in August, Rate Hits 8.1%.)

Who’s hiring right now:

• Toyota is in the midst of hiring 150 engineers and researchers to work at the company’s new technical center outside Detroit.

• Ford is looking for an undisclosed number of engineers as it ramps up development of next-generation vehicles.

• Nissan is seeking 50-60 engineers for its auto tech center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

The average starting salary for engineering jobs with automakers is between $60,000 and $120,000 and typically come with a signing bonus of $5,000-$8,000. (Read More: America's Highest Paying Jobs.)

Competing with Google, Facebook for talent

Help Wanted!: Engineers
CNBC's Phil LeBeau reports automakers are scrambling to hire engineers, as competition for skilled workers heats up.

With cars and trucks quickly evolving into wired portals, the type of engineer being hired by automakers has also changed. Yes, the traditional automotive engineer is still in demand, but there’s also greater demand for engineers specializing in software and telecommunications.

“Right now there is a lot of work in alternative power trains, electric vehicles, human/machine interface and vehicle connectivity all of these require a different skill set than your standard mechanical or electrical engineers of the past,” said Carla Bailo with Nissan North America.

This means automakers are now competing with companies like Google , Facebook and other tech firms. Bailo said the collapse of the auto industry three years ago adds to the challenge of hiring top engineers.

“Is it difficult to attract people to come into the automotive industry? Yes! What we are doing differently is we are going out and talking about what has changed in the automotive industry and what is going to make the business sustainable,” Bailo said.

Turning their back on cars

One other challenge the auto industry faces is hiring young engineers who may not own a car, let alone find them interesting. So, convincing engineers that working on cars can be as cool as working in the tech industry is not easy.

“They want the good, cool stuff and they don’t think of auto companies,” Watt said.

Watt believes the auto companies can win over engineers, but they have to move faster. “The auto companies are competing now for engineers in all types of businesses so they are going to have to change their ways. They are going to have to get a lot more aggressive.”

Bailo has seen how hard it is to recruit college grads who may not have had a car in college or even longed to own one. (Read More: Consumer Demand Drives Strong August Auto Sales.)

"They don’t have this allure of cars that perhaps my generation did where we couldn’t wait to get our license, we couldn’t wait to drive a GT of some kind," he said. "So we really have to talk about the elements of the car that pertain to them."

As fast as automakers are working now to fill engineering jobs, it may not end anytime soon. Some believe the auto industry is just beginning a long stretch where it will be steadily hiring more engineers.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau


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