New study shows ‘auto industry not dead’

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Windsor Star/Grace Macaluso

“The auto industry is not dead.”

That is the message of a new report showing job opportunities abound in the local auto sector, said Heather Gregg, business outreach innovator at Workforce WindsorEssex.

“The auto industry is a viable career for people,” said Gregg, project manager of the recently released study.

Demand for workers is being driven by factors, including current and future industry trends, such as automation, connected vehicle technology and increasingly tougher fuel efficiency standards, she said.

“Overall, the employers who participated in the study said they were optimistic about growth in the auto sector,” the study said.

Click here to read the study, which offers a snapshot of the local auto industry.

Auto sector jobs are on the rebound

It’s no secret that the local economy was battered during the 2008-2009 recession. In 2000, there were 49,400 people employed in manufacturing in the Windsor CMA. In 2010, that number plunged to 29,600 workers – a decrease of 20,000 jobs. The tide is turning. Starting in 2011 mould, tool, die and machining employers who supply the auto sector began to show signs of growth. In fact, employers currently are having a tough time finding skilled workers, such as engineers, machinists, welders, technicians and millwrights.

On the weekend, the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation held a skilled trades job fair that featured almost 30 local employers seeking to fill more than 300 full-time, permanent jobs.

Key factors driving the ongoing demand for workers

Automotive analyst Dennis DesRosiers expects automakers to launch between 60 and 70 new vehicle programs annually over the next three to five years, up from 40 to 50 models each year prior to the 2008 recession. “The next five to eight years will be the best year the industry has experienced,” he said.

In addition to this growth, the industry is looking for new materials and designs to meet new fuel efficiency standards. By 2025 North American vehicles will have to deliver 54.5 miles per gallon combined fuel economy.

Aging Workforce

As in other occupations, several key job categories in the auto sector are being affected by an aging workforce. Categories that are getting older include: senior managers; manufacturing managers; industrial and manufacturing engineers; electrical engineering technologists and technicians; motor vehicle assembling supervisors; and metal working and forging machine operators. Of the businesses that participated in the Workforce WindsorEssex study, on average almost one in five workers was aged 55 years or older.

Emerging Technologies

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, refers to various processes for printing a three-dimensional object. These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced from a model or other electronic data source. This process, first conceived in the 1970s, has accelerated to include printing three-dimensional parts using computer programs and materials, such as paper, bio tissue and metals.

A number of Windsor-Essex companies are exploring various uses of 3D printing in their manufacturing processes.

Flexible production and automation entails the use of various control systems for operating equipment. While this may reduce labour costs, there is still a need for trained and skilled workers to program, repair and maintain robotics and other systems.

The development of smart cars is another area of opportunity. Software and electronics are playing an increasingly larger role in the vehicles. Recent trends include incorporating personal software into vehicle features and options; automatic park assist, backup sensors and automatic door opening technology.

Auto industry jobs

There are more than 30 job classifications within motor vehicle manufacturing, motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing, and motor vehicle parts manufacturing industries. Average annual earnings in 2014 range from $73,292 in vehicle manufacturing, $60,217 in vehicle body and trailer manufacturing to $49,779 in parts manufacturing.

Automotive careers in emerging technologies all require science, technology, engineering and math skills.

“We want to let people know that the auto manufacturing industry does not consist of dark, dirty facilities,” said Gregg. “These are high tech, very advanced processes. And they require a whole, new range of skill sets that employers need.”