Technological advancement has always lead to great changes within some industries. Currently the automotive industry is undergoing such a development. The reasons are the growing digitalization of vehicles along with the shift toward electric mobility. What sounded like science fiction twenty years ago has become ready for mass production. Even the long-standing problem of energy storage and transfer has come close to being solved. This is where many specialists work whose jobs were niche before but now are on the verge of turning the whole industry upside down.

The classic engines for gas and diesel are still being improved parallel to this development, which means this development is not just shifting jobs, but continually adding new ones. As a result, after a steep drop in 2009, today we again see as many people working in the automotive industry as did ten years ago. In Germany, that’s 785 000 people working for several hundred different companies. The trend affects huge corporations as well as small companies and specialist providers. In 2014 the increase in jobs was 4%, making the automotive industry the driving force in the job market in a year the economically was average at best otherwise.

And this development continues, and companies in the automotive industry count as the most attractive employers, both for local and international candidates. As a result, these companies can pick the best candidates from a large pool, leading to increased quality, profitability, and innovation, which are the main growth factors besides the continued high demand for new cars, especially in Asia and North America. In return those companies offer their employees above average salaries and good opportunities for advancement. Some time ago, they were at the forefront of companies introducing clever tools for identifying and hiring the best talent. Still, continued optimization is a big thing. As a general rule, fewer employees are needed to produce the same number of cars, but those employees require a more specific skill set, which doesn’t make finding them any easier.

Things look slightly different in the area of research and development. This is where jobs are truly created. For the demands of electric mobility alone, companies are frantically searching for experts in high-voltage technology, light construction, and electronics, while such fields are only recently taught at universities and as such there are only few graduates available yet. The increasing need for IT also puts the automotive industry in direct competition with other industries in their recruitment efforts.

Car manufacturers also offer more and more variety in their products, offering different finishes, colors, upholstery, and engines. In light of recent developments in prices, that can only be realized with a high amount of automation. The necessary development work is still mainly done in Germany for the main German manufacturers, no matter where in the world the technology will be put to use later.

Production, on the other hand, has been decentralized long ago, and is now done locally near the respective markets. Hence, the job growth is also being “exported”, so to speak, to Asia, South America and other developing countries. The promise of “made in Germany” means quality the world over.

Interdisciplinary skilled workers, those who can think outside the box of a narrow field, stand a good chance of also personally take part in and profit from the growth. IT experts who also know their way around engines can pick and choose their employers. One reason is that the mechanical parts are very similar now across the major brands. Any differences in performance and handling have to be realized through software and electronics now. Let’s also not forget the cars’ growing connection the internet, not only limited to infotainment systems. All of these need specialized staff to build.

Soon vehicles will be able to communicate with each other, but communication with road signs, parking spaces or traffic lights are also in the engineers’ sights. Such “networking” cars will find the way to an open parking spot and autonomously park itself, or give a warning when approaching a traffic jam around the corner. The goal is of course increased security, but also a less stressful driving experience through near-autonomous vehicles, all in light of the increasing traffic in Europe, North America and South-East Asia.

Candidates should not make the mistake of eyeing only the big companies, though. Most research and development work for components has long been done by suppliers. Small suppliers can offer interesting opportunities for young graduates or those seeking an apprenticeship.

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