The "not hiring" sign is on hiatus at the SAE 2011 World Congress career fair, with automakers, suppliers, and job-placement firms looking to recruit engineers for immediate job openings.
"We've never had this many exhibiting companies," Martha Schanno, Recruitment Sales Manager for SAE International, said about the 42 firms collecting resumes and talking with candidates from the booths located in the lobby of Detroit's Cobo Center. Schanno was also collecting resumes from engineers on behalf of 14 companies with exhibits on the main show floor.
Clad in a crisply pressed suit and tie, job seeker Jaafar Zahed was eager to shake hands with recruiters and take a step closer to earning a paycheck.
"Loans kick in right after you finish college, so I want to be able to start paying those back," said Zahed, an electrical engineering student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn who graduates this May.
Curtis Foster, 35, returned to college full-time after working at jobs for General Motors, Chrysler, and Nissan. He'll earn a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Wayne State University in December. After chatting with different recruiters at the SAE career fair, Foster told AEI he was "optimistic" about landing a job.
Ellen Scholti, a senior recruiter for Volkswagen, was impressed with the job candidates she encountered, remarking, "I've talked to more Ph.D.'s today than I thought I would."
VW's hiring plans match it sales trajectory. "We are in a growth mode right now," said Scholti, who was collecting resumes for engineering positions in Michigan and Tennessee.
Mark Colosky, Senior Engineering Consultation Manager - Electrical Systems Group, Nexteer Automotive, said the company's Saginaw, MI, facility has approximately 20 openings for product design and manufacturing engineers. "The job market is starting to open up, especially for some of the more in-demand positions, such as electronics design and embedded software," he said.
Indiana-based LHP Software is looking to hire approximately 100 engineers in Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois for job positions to support its automotive industry clients. The for-hire list includes embedded software, embedded systems, embedded test, and embedded controls engineers.
According to Bryan Bromstrup, Recruiting Manager at LHP Software, embedded control and embedded software engineers are especially hard finds "because those engineers probably survived the downturn, and they're probably not actively pursuing a [new] job, so that makes it hard to find the experienced talent."
Sachin Sadashiv Narke, Assistant General Manager (Human Resource) Engineering Research Center at Tata Motors Ltd., said the Indian automaker's need for engineers is about the same as it was last year. "We're looking for people who can come to India and work with us," said Narke.
Tata's job openings include a vehicle design and integration leader to oversee a team of engineers in the design and development of new products and variants, as well as a team leader for the design, development, and testing of advanced automotive engine/transmission systems.
Cheryl Bentley, Coordinator in the Administration Department of the Human Resources Division of Keihin North America, said process engineers, plastics engineers, and HVAC engineers are on the company's most-wanted list, but job placements likely will not happen prior to the fall of 2011. Keihin North America sites—which include two assembly plants in Indiana, an assembly plant in Michigan, and a manufacturing facility in North Carolina—have reduced work schedules from 40 hours to 24-30 hours a week "because we're having difficulty getting parts from Japan," said Bentley.
As Japan recovers from March's destructive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, automakers and suppliers are experiencing production delays. "We believe that the (parts supply delivery) issue will continue through the summer," Bentley said.
Dennis Phillips, a corporate recruiter with BorgWarner, is being pressed to fill component release, ECU design, friction systems, software, validation, and other engineering positions as soon as possible. "The hiring manager is breathing down our neck to get the right talent hired for these immediate-open engineering positions at BorgWarner's global Powertrain Technical Center in Auburn Hills, MI," he said.
Citing 2009 as a terrible year in terms of available jobs for engineers, Phillips—who has been a jobs recruiter for 20 years—believes 2011 is shaping up to be a very good hiring year for engineers.
Patrick Spear, an environmental scientist who lost his job with Wayne County after 17 years, agrees with Phillips' assessment. "There are a lot of openings for engineers, just not for my technical expertise. But I'm keeping my options open," said Spears, as he continued his job hunt at the SAE career fair.