Across every sector of the industry, auto companies are hiring. After years of keeping work forces as lean as possible, many automakers, suppliers and dealerships have regained enough confidence in the economy to recruit employees.
It's about time.
In the years since auto sales started plunging in 2008, most industry human resources departments have been cautious. They slashed employees to survive the crisis, then hired workers sparingly during the recovery.
As a result, many companies have unbalanced work forces: light at the younger and middle levels and heavy on older, more experienced workers. Many older employees are working longer than expected because the recession slammed their retirement investments.
Over the next decade, many auto-sector companies face losing their core cadre of experienced leaders, and younger workers properly prepared to replace them are scarce.
This is not just about grooming future CEOs. It's about replenishing the supply of people with the critical skills needed for complex products, from tool-and-die makers, machinists and millwrights to engineers, designers and technicians. That's harder because fewer young people are interested in manufacturing, skilled trades and mechanically oriented careers.
Companies also need to find more people with high-tech skills. But finding new employees is a must.
The auto industry cannot get by on "good enough" workers. Traditionally, auto companies pay a premium to recruit and retain high-quality people because innovation, dedication and continuity are critical to success.
The immediate need is to fill open positions. For long-term success, it is essential to recruit and retain talent for the future. The challenge this year is balancing those needs.