The clock is ticking on development of self-driving cars, new safety, better efficiency and automakers are scrambling to hire the necessary bodies.
General Motors of Canada feels the human-resources impact of this trend more than most companies, says President Steve Carlisle.
Engineers will lead the automaker’s foray into autonomous driving at the Oshawa-based research-and-development centre; it has also opened a software centre in Markham, and is building an Urban Mobility Campus in downtown Toronto.
Net result: GM Canada needs 1,000 more new engineers over the next five years.
“So we’re hiring,” said Carlisle, in an address Nov. 9 at the JD Power TalkAuto Conference in Toronto.
He actually ended his presentation with a recruiting request: “If you know of qualified grads interested in being part of this technology revolution, please send them to gm.ca/careers, or to me.”
BEST OF THE BEST
Speaking with Automotive News Canada, Carlisle noted that the request was not made in desperation.
“No, we just want to get the best of the best. We’re casting a pretty broad net, to see who’s out there and what their capabilities are ... [and] so far so good.
“We’re a bit ahead of where we wanted to be at this point but honestly, it was a concern heading into it.”
Concern or not, Carlisle seems to have taken the recruitment responsibility to new levels for a GM president. He personally visited all of Ontario’s top engineering schools this year to make the pitch about the company’s technology vision, and how engineering and computer-science grads can help shape the future of mobility —ride hailing/sharing and autonomous vehicles — by joining the team.
“Steve is doing some good evangelical work out there,” says Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association (APMA).
“There are new opportunities for engineers in automotive ... in the past some graduates may have gravitated to pure IT jobs. Steve is doing a great job in helping them understand that we are hurtling to a new space in automotive.”
Carlisle’s visit and talk at the University of Toronto Nov. 15 attracted about 150 engineering undergraduates, said Allison Brown, director of corporate and foundation partnerships, for the school’s faculty of engineering and applied science.
“Many of them stayed around to talk to Steve and the recruitment leadership at GM. I would say that just from that visit alone, interest in automotive is high, particularly in the autonomous- vehicle space.”
HIGH DEMAND FOR TECH GRADS
Computer-science and engineering graduates are also being courted by non-automotive players such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and numerous startups.
Brown says University of Toronto engineering grads are in demand, particularly those in the mechanical, industrial, computer, and electrical streams.
But Carlisle doesn’t seem all that fussy about nailing down engineers in specific disciplines.
“They could be various disciplines, but the common element is software.
“For example, you can get computer-science grads who aren’t engineers per se, but they still fit the bill.”
He says that automotive is a collaborate enterprise requiring many skill sets and that engineering disciplines tend to “bleed” into one another.
“It’s one of those things too, where you want to get out and meet people and make connections because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring,” says Carlisle.
In his address at TalkAuto, Carlisle spoke about how the automaker needs to change for that fast-approaching tomorrow.
“We need to think about mobility as a service, and we need to invent products to manufacture – not just manufacture products others have invented.”