Industry programs working group
Australian Automotive Talent: a new era

Vehicle Technology Engineer, Issue 3 – 10th October 2014

With the announcements that Ford, Holden and Toyota will wind up their automotive manufacturing activities in Australia by 2017, the future looks very uncertain – and potentially bleak – for thousands of automotive industry employees.

Job losses at all major employers have already commenced.  Development projects are coming to an end, and many design, development and validation engineers are actively seeking work, or trying to figure out what the next phase of their career will look like.

The final report from the Productivity Commission, released in August 2014 estimates job losses of up to 40,000 across the industry.

Currently, a number of overseas companies are taking advantage of the closing of Australia’s automotive industry, and are actively recruiting in Australia.  Attractive packages are available for relocation – and there are an enormous number of jobs available in the USA and Europe.  Whilst these opportunities are of great benefit to the individual engineers whose personal situations enable them to take advantage of such offers, a mass exodus of highly trained, highly skilled individuals is a great loss to the nation as a whole.

The Government recently conducted an economic review to identify growth sectors and industries that could benefit from the skills of Australia’s automotive professionals, so that automotive engineers could target these industries when seeking employment opportunities. Sadly, such reports provide little tangible benefit to people currently, or soon to be, out of work. 

The review is a good start, but it needs to be followed up with a program that provides action, focussing on connecting automotive talent with employers in complementary industries.   

The SAE-A represents automotive industry members and has created a new committee, the Industry Programs Working Group, to assist in addressing these issues.  The work of the IPWG will be fundamental to empowering engineers and professionals to make their next career decisions and will add long term benefits to Australian industry through the retention of a highly skilled workforce.

“To place engineers into roles that add value to the employer and where the automotive professional can utilise their skills, knowledge and experience.”

The committee is chaired by Martha Oplopiadis, Engineering Manager at GM Holden and SAE-A board member, and has the following remit:

  • To place engineers into roles that add value to the employer and where the automotive professional can utilise their skills, knowledge and experience.
  • To retain the skills and knowledge of Automotive Professionals in Australia through a program that identifies relevant employment opportunities and connects professionals with potential new employers.
  • Be the conduit connecting engineering talent with new growth industries.
  • Develop strategies to educate potential employers as to how engineers can benefit their organisations.
  • Promote engineering talent and the value that engineers add to small and multinational business, particularly through their highly developed skills in problem solving, risk management, attention to detail, and analysis.
The Industry Programs Working Group, deeply aware that time is running short for many people, is working with urgency on these issues.  Preliminary discussions with numerous industry groups have been held, and an initial pool of industry bodies interested in automotive engineering talent has been identified.

In early October 2014, the committee will be running its first workshop to gather data from potential industry groups. Understanding the gaps in their employee skill-sets, and how automotive talent could assist them in achieving their company strategies will be the objective of this workshop. Following the workshop, that data will be analysed to allow skills-mapping to be undertaken, to assist in identifying overlaps.

If you would like to become involved and contribute to the research and communication efforts of the IPWG, contact the national office for details.

For further information contact:

Martha Oplopiadis

Industry Programs & Allied Societies Chair, SAE-A


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