The people problem

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The auto industry needs to face the long-range problem of recruiting fresh blood. There's no better time to tackle the problem than now. Five years post-crisis, the industry has had a solid recovery. Companies have had several good years to rebuild their financial reserves.

There are documented shortages of engineers and product developers, skilled tradesmen and tool and die makers. The situation will get worse before it improves.

The recession cut so deep that the entire auto work force was depleted of good workers, especially young ones. And it lasted so long that many laid-off auto workers found work in other industries and now are reluctant to return.

Some companies are making headway. They are hiring co-op students, partnering with schools and trade unions and creating internal mentoring programs.

Each company should examine its own long-term needs. If executives need help, there are champions in each sector, such as the Original Equipment Suppliers Association for parts makers and the National Automobile Dealers Association for dealers.

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