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The Auto Industry: In Search of New Talent amid Changing Skills Requirements

Today's automobile production line requires highly skilled, flexible workers who can rapidly adjust to change.

2013 Auto/Aero Site Guide
(page 2 of 2)
Role of Human Resources in Site Selection
There are six critical factors that play into automotive site selection:

  • 1. High quality labor within a reasonable distance

  • 2.Educational infrastructure capable of producing future skilled workers

  • 3.Leading-edge research and development

  • 4.Comprehensive transportation networks

  • 5.Access to supply base and customers

  • 6.Requisite infrastructure (either in existence or can be completed within a short time period)

Other factors such as taxes, utility rates, and incentives are also important, but they can be negotiated –— these six factors are “set” and not easily remedied in the short run. The first three factors relate to human resources and educational assets — and any state or region that seeks to maintain or enhance its automotive footprint would be well-advised to assess its work force skills and educational assets and take the necessary actions to improve them.

The Center for Automotive Research is engaged in two programs that address these issues: the Automotive Communities Program (ACP) in the Great Lake States and Southern Automotive Research Agenda (SARA) that was recently initiated in the South. The ACP was initiated over 13 years ago, and concentrates on the long-term viability and sustainability of the auto industry and the communities in the Great Lakes States, which are the historic home of the auto industry. SARA was initiated in 2013 in response to needs expressed by several state economic development agencies in the South.

SARA will examine the critical success factors necessary for continued growth of automotive investment in the South, including the skills of the work force. The results will identify common challenges and opportunities for action that are consistent throughout the region, including work force development and engagement of education and research institutions. The study will identify synergistic opportunities to align the region’s manufacturers and build stronger ties among industry, academia, and economic development organizations.

In Sum
The auto industry, which recently went through a painful restructuring, is in a hiring and growth mode. Companies, however, are struggling to find the needed talent, as the industry’s human resources needs have changed. Indeed, finding the requisite skilled work force is probably the auto industry’s greatest challenge. Those communities and regions that can supply that talent will have a significant advantage in retaining and attracting automotive investment.

1 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Survey, NAICS 3361 and 3363
2 Center for Automotive Research, Book of Deals, 2013
3 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Survey, NAICS 3361 and 3363
4 U.S. Department of Commerce, Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders Survey
5 U.S. Department of Commerce, Foreign Trade Division,
6 Center for Automotive Research estimates
7 Center for Automotive Research estimates
8 Center for Automotive Research, Assessment of Tax Revenue Generated by the Automotive Sector, April 2012
9 Center for Automotive Research, Contribution of the Automotive Industry to the Economies of all Fifty States and the United States, April 2010
10 Center for Automotive Research estimates based on National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Indicators 2012
11 Center for Automotive Research
12 Boiling Point: The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, 2011
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