Auto resurgence leaves Michigan scrambling for workers

08.15.2012


Auto resurgence leaves Michigan scrambling for workers
Auto resurgence leaves Michigan scrambling for workers

The demand for auto engineers in Michigan is so high that recruiter Andrew Watt estimates an out-of-work auto expert may spend only three days looking before finding a gig.

"If their skills are even on the edges of automotive, they can get a job," said Watt said. "There’s an extreme shortage. There’s way more demand than supply."

It was only three years ago, in August 2009, that Michigan's employment was the worst in the country at 14.2 percent. But that was before General Motors and Chrysler Group came back from the grave, helping the employment rate fall back to a more modest 8.6 percent. This gain in employment has led to a rise in skilled manufacturing positions in the auto industry, Bloomberg reports.

According to the news source, this demand for highly trained automotive engineers is also coming with the demand for higher salaries - typically in the range of $80,000 to $120,000. These engineers, which are tasked with designing new cars and automobile components, have been wanted in the industry for years, but with the resurgence, this demand has soared to new highs.

Michigan governor Rick Snyder said some of the issues with automobile staffing have arisen due to the disparity between what the industry needs and what training programs are offering, according to the news source.

"We’ve had kind of a dumb system in our country," Snyder said in an interview. "The private sector is out with its demand, and supply people, the educational system, there’s no strategic perspective to say let’s match supply and demand."

With so much demand in Michigan and so few qualified workers, many companies, including Nissan, have reached out to nearby Ohio and Indiana to fill open positions at its Michigan plant. Carla Bailo, senior vice president of research and development for Nissan Americas, said the company hopes to fill as many as 150 engineering positions by the end of the year.

Automotive staffing is also picking up in Missouri, where a supplier for General Motors and Nissan plans to build a new facility that will employ more than 200 workers, St. Louis Today reports.

Henniges Automotive said the $5 million expansion will be needed to add new molding presses and robotic coating systems to the current production process.