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Tech Giants v Automakers: A Perspective on the Tech Talent War

Jim Farley, the new CEO of Ford Motor Company, sent waves across the motoring world when he declared Apple, Amazon and China’s Baidu, Inc. to be among the major competitors for Ford. While traditional petrol-heads may have scoffed at this assessment, Farley is actually right on target.  

There is indeed a shift from selling products to selling experiences in the automotive industry. And tech giants like Google & Amazon have a proven track record in this domain. 

The modern connected car experience leverages more on software than on hardware. Hardware innovations have pretty much saturated. On the other hand, the true power of software in mobility is yet to be seen. This has driven traditional automakers back to the drawing board and reexamine their talent pool to remain competitive. 

Tech giants are making deep inroads into automobile. Waymo, which began life as the Google Self-Driving Car project in 2009, has taken on a life of its own. Amazon’s acquisition of Zoox, a self-driving startup, is indication of their interest in the auto domain.  

But automakers are fighting back too.  

With their investment in Palo Alto-based Autonomic, Ford has signaled to the world that they are serious about becoming leaders in the connected cars space.  

Although, if self-driving is the future of mobility, then the tech giants already have a huge advantage over traditional automakers. 

Lighting the Sparks of a Talent War 

The automobile industry is vying for the same piece of the talent puzzle as the tech sector.  

Spread across R&D centers around the world, AI/ML engineers & Data Scientists are lending expertise to auto engineers. An industry analyst estimates that between 2020 & 2026, AI in automotive will grow at a whopping CAGR of 35%! 

The signs of a talent war are already visible on the ground. Companies like Uber & Waymo have been using sky-high compensation packages to lure talent away from research organizations. Toyota has earmarked $1 billion to build 200-strong research team for self-driving cars.  

For the self-driving segment, the automotive industry is hiring for AI talent in the form of robotics engineer, data scientists/engineers, and AI experts.  

When it comes to the EV segment, the focus is more on mobility engineers, material scientists, and ML engineers. Requirement for IoT & big data analytics professionals has spiked industry wide. 

While the talent shortage in most of these roles can be mitigated through internal learning academies or vendor-supported learning modules, some like Robotics & Material Scientists are harder to fill. 

 Material Scientists, especially, are scarce in India and OEMs are forced to hire for these roles from abroad. A niche field, practitioners are quickly swooped up by other industries.  

Despite Indian universities incorporating Robotics into their syllabi, the talent is not industry ready. Intensive upskilling strategies are the way to go. 

All this means good news for the fresh out-of-college graduate. Even while people have been losing jobs during the pandemic, sectors like AI, Data Science & Cybersecurity have, in fact, increased their hiring.  

Even More Reasons to Reskill 

The $42MM worth self-driving car segment has prompted recruiters in the automotive industry to go to extreme lengths to acquire this talent.  

So much so, that traditional auto-makers are even imbibing “startup culture.” 

According to Indeed, there has been a rise of 668%of searches for autonomous vehicle-related jobs since 2015.  

To sustain their leadership position in markets, automakers are hiring for new-age talent at a frenetic pace. OEMs are investing in new R&D centers and manufacturing hubs around the world as the demand for electric and smart cars picks up. These microhubs are also turning out to be a strategic asset that goes a long way in times of disruption. 

But before setting up such centers, some level of ecosystem analysis needs to be done to ensure that the target location is skill & talent-rich. Draup for Talent provides available skills-level overview for a selected location. These skills are intuitively derived from target new-age job roles that are crucial to the automotive industry.  

Using this, OEMs can identify ideal locations for their next R&D and manufacturing centers. 

Workforce planners at such organizations can also identify & learn about the Reskilling Propensity Index for their existing talent before jumping on the hiring bandwagon. Utilizing the Reskilling Navigator & the Path Predictor tool in the Draup for Talent platform, stakeholders can easily re/upskill their existing workforce.