It’s that time of year again: the dog days of summer are receding in the rearview mirror, football season is in full swing, and the days themselves are getting shorter. It’s also that time of year when college seniors across the country are beginning the final year of their education and facing questions about their future. Friends and family will bombard them with the difficult question, “What are your plans after graduation?” Increasingly, the automotive industry is absent from their answer.
An economy in recovery, coupled with affordable gas prices, has resulted in a tremendous year for car sales. The automotive industry accounts for 1 of every 22 American jobs, directly employing more than 1.7 million Americans. Yet, it seems that a driving force of the American economy is failing to attract young people. The Detroit News fears that a negative perception of the automotive industry and the careers it provides could create a dearth of talent in the future. Citing a study that states that less than half of 18-24 year-old respondents believe that the automotive industry offers global or diverse opportunities, the article believes, “those numbers have real-life implications. In five years, 10 million jobs will be unfilled with the current skill shortage; in 15 years, 30 million jobs.”
A reason that many young people may be reluctant to consider a career in the automotive field could be their lack of experience with vehicle innovations. Without the resources to afford new vehicles, many young people do not have first hand interactions with the latest technology available today. It is possible that as they begin to become more acquainted with new vehicles and the latest in-vehicle technology, their interest in the industry will follow. The industry itself also needs to make a concerted effort to attract young talent by extolling the virtues of working in an exciting industry that is vital to the American economy.
While there is some uncertainty that up-and-coming talent will be lost to other industries, there is reason to be optimistic. Forbes recently opined that the “car maker of the future may look more like a tech startup than a manufacturing giant.” Consider the fact that the technology we use every day has moved from a large, stationary computer on a desk to a compact device that fits in a pocket. It would seem inevitable that this mobile technology would end up in vehicles, as well. Accordingly, the advancement of technology has led the scope of automotive jobs to grow exponentially. When taking into account in-vehicle technology, engineering is not the only degree the industry desires. Increasingly, the automotive industry will look to employ experts in electronics, internet programming, and integration. As technology continues to evolve, it seems reasonable that the possibilities for the future are endless.
The semester is still young and graduation remains eight months away, but the question of what to do after graduation will be omnipresent for soon-to-be graduates. For many at this stage, plans have yet to be finalized and many options remain to be considered. In order to attract the brightest young minds, the automotive industry needs to offer cutting edge opportunities that ignite passion and offer intellectual stimulation. What this means is that as the industry continues to innovate, its college outreach programs become vital to its long-term health and growth.