Auto industry engineering job market slowly recovering

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A Lego engineer at his drafting table.

Auto engineering job openings are rising to meet candidate demand. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Duane Hess/Flickr)

Many of the major casualties of the U.S. auto industry collapse post 2008 were engineering jobs, notes Automotive News. Economic uncertainty led many talented engineers to jump ship for other industries. It’s been a slow climb back for automakers, who are pulling out the stops to bring top engineering talent back into the fold.

Recruitment in full swing

Kathryn Blackwell, NAFTA region Vice President of Communications for Continental Automotive Systems, saw the recent Detroit Auto Show for what it truly was: a recruitment jungle.

“The aim was to get on the show floor and network for recruiting purposes,” she told Automotive News. “As we’re increasing, we need to hire more, and we’re doing what we can to recruit.”

Continental, a global automotive supplier, has felt the sting of the engineering talent exodus ever since the low point of the industry in 2009. Currently, the company is looking to fill 150 related positions.

“There are a lot of aspects” as to why they are not choosing auto suppliers, said Santosh Anishetty, Continental’s head of passive safety and advanced driver assistance systems. “A quality engineer with eight or 10 years of experience is a king or queen because they are often the most experienced at the place.”

According to, the average automotive engineer salary in 2011 ranged between $55,955 and $117,916.

300,000 jobs lost

Neil De Koker, CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, estimates that more than 300,000 auto industry jobs were eliminated during the recession.

“The bottom line is the sense of security we lost,” De Koker said. “The technically qualified people we lost have joined other parts of the industry and the question is: How do we get those people back?”

Hiring momentum

Recruitment sales manager Martha Schanno of the Society of Automotive Engineers understands that things are still grim for the state of engineering in the automotive industry, but consumer and commercial vehicle engineering positions are being filled.

“It’s looking very positive again for this year,” Schanno said.

There is greater hiring momentum than in 2008 and 2009, when most engineers were laid off. The ratio of open jobs to available candidates has stabilized since then.

“We’ve seen an increase on our job board of new candidates or older ones updating their resumes, but we’ve also seen a lot of new employers on there as well,” she said. “It’s a nice rise on both sides, and this year is starting out very, very positive.”

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