Engineer shortage threatens advanced powertrain development

  • 25-Apr-2012 03:47 EDT
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"We have a significant resource problem," asserted Chrysler Powertrain's Chris Cowland.

“I think in about 15 years’ time we won’t have enough engineers in the automotive industry. We have a significant resource problem,” warned Chris Cowland, Chrysler’s Director of Advanced and SRT Powertrain, at the SAE 2012 World Congress.

Speaking on a panel discussion, “2018 and Beyond Powertrains,” Cowland and three other engineering executives answered questions from the audience about the human resources required to develop significantly more efficient engines, transmissions, and drivelines within the next decade.

The others—including Joe Bakaj, Ford’s Vice President of Powertrain Engineering; Sam Winegarden, Vice President of Powertrain Engine Engineering at General Motors; and Dimitri Kazarinoff, AVL’s President of Powertrain Engineering—concurred with Cowland. They said the shortage of human assets is real, and that it presents a serious challenge to the industry at a critical time.

“I agree with Chris’ assessment,” said Bakaj. “In vehicle electrification, there’s already a significant shortfall of engineers who are versed in the technologies.” He and the others suggested one solution is for OEMs and suppliers to work directly with engineering and technical universities to develop “purpose-built courses that suit our needs.”

A worldwide shortage of engineers is threatening not only the auto industry’s advanced technology development, but also global development in various other sectors, according to a 2010 UNESCO report, the first of its kind on global engineering. The report said the shortage of engineers is serious in many countries, including Germany, Japan, and South Korea, as well as the U.S. and Canada.

The UNESCO report is echoed by recent surveys in the U.S. The Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) reported that 70% of its member companies were having difficulty hiring engineering and technical staff in late 2011, compared with 42% in 2010.

In Michigan, the Engineering Society of Detroit reported 20 more companies searching for engineers in early 2012 than at the same period in 2009.

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