The reason there are too few automotive engineers

Our sister publication Wards Auto recently ran a news item about the dearth of automotive engineers. Despite a 9% unemployment rate, automotive suppliers in the Detroit area are having trouble finding qualified engineers, but one of the big reasons why becomes clear from comments made by people working at automotive suppliers: The big down turn of recent years forced many engineers to leave the auto industry and companies now don't want to train newbee engineers.

All I can say is, good luck with that policy.

There's also an undercurrent behind many of the comments that would lead you to believe that automotive suppliers are trying to find engineers without paying competitive wages.

One passage in particular is revealing on this point:

"A source who asks not to be identified says there is another major reason suppliers in particular are having a tougher time hiring engineers compared with their auto maker customers: salaries.

Most suppliers chopped engineering wages and consolidated pay grades in 2009. Facing profit pressures and a fragile recovery, they have been reluctant to raise them. 'OEMs have adjusted back up and are paying more. That's why you don't hear auto makers complaining too much,' the source says.

And that's why the 'engineering shortage' is more accurately described as a training and experience gap, saysKristin Dziczek, director-Labor and Industry Group at the Center for Automotive Research.

'I don't doubt there are niche areas where it is extremely difficult to find candidates, but (the shortage of engineers) is not as widespread as it sounds,' she says."

But don't expect to hear about this nuance to the situation during the next round of hand-wringing about the U.S. "educating too few engineers."

Here is the Wards story:

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