DETROIT -- General Motors product boss Mark Reuss on Thursday called on industry officials to increase their efforts to get younger generations involved in automotive engineering.
By 2020, Reuss said, it's estimated that the U.S. will face a shortage of roughly half a million engineers.
"We absolutely need to work harder to populate the future with engineers, which means we have to work harder to get young people interested in engineering long before they get to college," he said here at the SAE International WCX World Congress Experience.
Reuss, GM executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, specifically called on SAE to be more involved in influencing politics and further increasing education efforts for young people. He encouraged the organization to adapt more quickly to the changing automotive industry.
"I think SAE has a real opportunity to redefine itself as a tool to grow interest and talent in this industry, and as an organization that leads industry and government towards the future," he said, candidly, adding "SAE used to be more of a thought leader."
The auto industry, Reuss said, is changing fast and SAE "needs to change along with it, perhaps even faster."
An SAE spokesman, when reached by Automotive News, did not have a response to Reuss' remarks about the organization.
Reuss' decision to focus his keynote speech on talent arguably underlines the importance of the issue, as he could have talked about GM's growing fleet of autonomous vehicles or the automaker's plans to launch 20 new all-electric or fuel cell vehicles by 2023.
His comments, much of which focused on Detroit, are the most recent in a call to attract young people to engineering. For years, auto executives have talked about a growing "talent gap" facing the industry.
In recent years, automakers have attempted to attract young talent by emphasizing cutting-edge technologies such as electrified and autonomous vehicles over traditional r&d initiatives.
Promoting STEM education has been a major priority of GM's leadership team under CEO Mary Barra.
Reuss outlined several initiatives that GM has undertaken to promote STEM education in schools, including: SAE's educational program, A World In Motion, or AWIM; a new cybersecurity; Get WISE, which stands for Women In Science and Engineering; and GM Student Corps., an effort by the automaker to help high school kids get summer work.
"We have a number of programs we do on our own, and we'd like to do even more of these. It would be great if SAE and its members, along with all the other companies out there would do likewise," he said.