Cars remained parked, travel was banned, and business trips and tourism grinded to a halt. The pandemic has had a disruptive impact on the automotive sector. In one respect, factory closures, labour shortages and logistics hiccups triggered a deep crisis. However, this has also spurred on further acceleration of technological change, and with it the work of people employed in this sector.
Digitalisation proved itself a hefty buzzword and primary agent of change. In a future of electric and self-driving cars, increasingly integrated in terms of functionality and services, the car is destined to become a space of leisure, not just a means of transport.
The Adecco Group’s whitepaper ‘Il futuro dei talenti nel settore Automotive & Mobility’ (The Future of Talent in Automotive & Mobility) explores the underlying trends that will set the industry’s agenda in the future, including the dynamics of new talent entering the industry.
The overall context is complex. The pandemic is expected to “depress annual light vehicle production volumes in the automotive sector by 21% compared to 2019”, which will be followed by “an increasing pace to exceed these figures by 2022-2023, rising to nearly 100 million units by the end of 2025”, the report says.
The performance of electric vehicles (with CASE technologies – Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric) will offset the decline in sales. But overall, the car market is still an ‘exposed’ market, which will recover over a period of time.
This also poses new challenges in terms of work. “The job market is in the grip of three megatrends: a volatility that calls for ever greater flexibility; digitalisation, which poses upskilling and reskilling needs; and finally sustainability and the so-called Road to Zero“, explained Alain Dehaze, Global CEO of the Adecco Group, during the webinar “The Future of Talent in the Automotive Industry”.
The job market is in the grip of three megatrends: a volatility that calls for ever greater flexibility; digitalisation, which poses upskilling and reskilling needs; and finally sustainability and the so-called Road to Zero
How the market is faring
To respond to these trends, the report argues that it will be increasingly necessary to bridge the gap between talent and technology. As the automotive industry undergoes a radical transformation, these changes affect individual talent as well as companies and their ability to attract and retain talent.
For instance, “an engineer employed in the automotive sector can no longer be just an engineer, but must learn to develop an integrated knowledge of different skill sets: engineering, data analytics, computing and artificial intelligence”, outlined the technology consultancy Modis president Jan Gupta during the webinar. Gupta has some advice for young people who want to get the best possible training to be (and stay) attractive on the automotive job market: “Take additional courses in computer science and electronics, and try to get into companies that make digitalisation a central pillar of their business, perhaps also offering specific training on artificial intelligence”.
On the corporate end, however, in order to regain full operationality and maintain a competitive advantage, “rethinking talent acquisition, retention and management has become an imperative“. They will increasingly have to “invest in upskilling, reskilling and soft skills” to be prepared and agile, the report says.
So what specific directions are there in this change? The study suggests that work will be required on several fronts at once: “collaboration with human resource experts to explore evolving work patterns”; just-in-time access, one that is “rapid and efficient to skills and competencies in response to any loss of critical talent”, increasing sources of talent “through continuous learning, to accelerate innovation and meet future needs”, and creating the “technological and digital engineering skills and mindsets needed to continue operating during business disruptions”.
Shared mobility, including car sharing, rental, leasing and on-demand transport services, will increase exponentially, requiring more and more repair technicians, drivers and staff to refuel and recharge vehicles
The ten trends of change
Connected cars and IoT platformswill entail the recruitment of network, electronics and software engineers as members of research and development teams. The growing popularity of autonomous cars (projected to reach 18 million worldwide by 2030) will require expertise in machine learning, computer vision and sensor processing, along with skills in designing the guiding intelligence of autonomous cars.
Shared mobility, including car sharing, rental, leasing and on-demand transport services, will increase exponentially, requiring more and more repair technicians, drivers and staff to refuel and recharge vehicles. Field training and workforce management services will also be needed upstream.
The advent and rise of electric vehicles will also require the use of neural network engineers, materials scientists, software specialists, infotainment app developers, cybersecurity specialists, communication specialists, together. with service teams possessing in-depth knowledge of electric vehicle charging, repair and maintenance.
Digital enterprise stands as another buzzword looking to the future: over 2,100 digital startups will enter and disrupt the market supply chain. The demand for experts in digital supply chains, e-commerce, digital manufacturing, data monetisation and digital post-sales services will therefore increase. Meanwhile, the existing workforce will need to upgrade their skills and acquire new ones.
The surge in human-machine interactionand corporate spending on developing simulation models, cloud-based platforms, robotics and machine learning equates to a need for more employees specialising in robot development and maintenance.During this transitional period in the factory, skills upgrading, change management training and transformational leadership will be key areas for investment.
Digital retailing, i.e. all online sales platforms (including automotive, virtual showrooms and digital sales), will require a number of specialists capable of unlocking their potential. There will be a high demand for IT and ICT expertscapable of designing and managing virtual showroom experiences, social media experts, web configurators and e-commerce platform developers. Social media marketing teams will be expected to generate the most effective engagement on social media, while data analysts wrangle with scores of information generated on digital platforms.
Social, gender and ethnic diversity must be encouraged within the automotive workforce as part of an increasingly global workforce
Sustainability at the core
The environmental dimension of zero emissions (but also zero waste, zero accidents, zero traffic) features prominently in the strategies of many automotive companies. Responding to this trend will require organisational roles with cross-functional capabilities, deepening production links between engineers, infrastructure planners and governments. It will be necessary to have engineers capable of programming vehicles with sensors and devices to ensure a safer driving environment. But environmental issues will also trigger a real cultural change related to corporate social responsibility.
New business models are cropping up and gaining ground: this is why mergers and joint ventures will require redundancies as much as a redistribution of resources, making effective human resource management more essential than ever. Professional mobility and transitional roles will be central areas of focus, while intercultural training, given the global nature of the new organisations, will become increasingly important at all levels.
Last but not least, the role of Generation Z in decision-making should not be underestimated: with their purchasing habits, they will increasingly influence companies and consumers, even in the automotive sector. Social media experts and media analysts will be instrumental in pinpointing their tastes and interests. In more general terms, social, gender and ethnic diversity must be encouraged within the automotive workforce as part of an increasingly global workforce.
“This sector is undergoing a significant transformation, and while this is a challenge, given the speed and scale of change, it is also a very fascinating one“, concludes Alain Dehaze.