MARKHAM, ONT. — General Motors is hiring hundreds of engineers this year for its recently opened fourth Ontario technology campus, the GM Technical Centre, which will specialize in hardware and software for electric, connected, autonomous and shared vehicles.
Director Brian Tossan said about half the centre’s 700 engineers have been hired, with 40 of them brought on in one day in early January, and another 40 the following week.
“We’re not waiting months to do this,” he said. “We get thousands of applications a month.”
Another 300 jobs are being filled at the company’s technology campus in Oshawa, Ont.
GM also has its Communitech Lab in Kitchener-Waterloo, about 100 kilometres west of Toronto, and a cold-weather test facility in Kapuskasing, about 850 kilometres north of Toronto. GM is also build ing a new urban-mobility lab in downtown Toronto.
The Markham centre is currently concentrating on infotainment systems, active safety systems, and software and controls for self-driving cars. Its employees come from all backgrounds, not just auto motive, and many of them rotate between the various centres. Tossan says that collaboration is the key. As with California’s Silicon Valley IT labs, employees are encouraged to brainstorm over snacks in the Markham centre’s numerous cafeterias, while whiteboards can be detached from the walls and their information taken to other meeting rooms.
“We’re doing software-intensive work, because there can be 150 computers in the car just for active safety,” Tossan said. “What you see here are some very smart and talented people who are determined to lead in the transformation of personal mobility.”
At the Jan. 19 opening, GM Canada President Steve Carlisle said the automaker will commit $1.8 million to encourage students, especially females, to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), and a series of university scholarships, beginning with a $200,000 endowment to the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo.
GM says the Markham centre is Canada’s largest automotive software hub, and its engineers are in continuous communication with the company’s global technical centres. Although GM Canada’s head office is 55 kilometres away in Oshawa, the Technical Centre had to be in Markham, according to George Saratlic, who was lead manager of GM’s brand communications at the time of the interview and has since taken a new position.
Markham, adjacent to Toronto’s northern border, is home to a large number of major technology companies, including IBM, GE Energy, Toshiba and Lenovo.
“The reality is that these people could get a job anywhere here, at any of these companies nearby, and a 60minute commute [to Oshawa] won’t fly with them,” Saratlic said. “They want to be close to the city and in the middle of everything, and so this had to be here as well.”
The three-floor, 150,000-square-foot (14,000-square-metre) building was originally an American Express call centre.
“The designs were finalized in May 2017, and it was taken down to the studs and rebuilt,” Tossan said.
“It’s an open design with limitless potential. We have banks of solar panels, rows of electric vehicle charging stations, and we have partners from some of the top Canadian companies, research institutions and universities.”