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AVs and EVs demand a new breed of workforce

The ability to implement new vehicle advancements is contingent on the emergence of a tech-savvy manufacturing workforce, writes Gurpreet Singh

The automotive industry is undergoing a major technological overhaul. According to McKinsey, by 2030 up to 30% of a vehicle’s total costs will be related to software and other digital components. For car makers, the ability to implement these advancements is contingent on the emergence of a similarly tech-savvy manufacturing workforce. Unfortunately, this new workforce has yet to fully take shape, largely because it requires a combination of technological expertise, soft skills, and traditional industry knowledge.

A practical and cost-effective approach to closing this skills gap is focusing on educating—or upskilling—current employees. If car makers want to meet today’s demands, it’s incumbent on them to identify the skills their workers need and equip them with this knowledge by sponsoring employee participation in academic courses.

Complex systems increase the need for soft skills like critical thinking, leadership, and management

In today’s automotive industry, addressing the needs of consumers means adapting to the shift toward electric vehicles and incorporating advanced software and electronics, including automation, infotainment, IoT connectivity, and driver assistance systems. This transformation in the manufacturing process requires workers to develop a mastery of myriad complex systems. However, technical knowledge is only one piece of the upskilling puzzle. Complex systems increase the need for soft skills like critical thinking, leadership, and management. To improve the efficiency of daily processes, car makers also need their workers to be able to identify operational roadblocks and take the initiative to fix them.

With the rise of new technology, manufacturing positions that have traditionally been labelled as blue collar are now leaning into the white collar realm. Company-sponsored upskilling programmes allow workers to take academic courses related to the specific skills they need to grow into these roles. Workers can enrol in courses on designing, assembling, and servicing modern vehicles, but also leadership, operations and creative thinking to develop a well-rounded skill set.

Special report: Automotive project management
As vehicles become more software-based, the manufacturing workforce must become more tech-savvy

A great starting point for developing an upskilling programme is to determine which specific skills the programme should target. Employees are much more likely to participate in upskilling programmes when they can see the connection between the subject matter and their daily responsibilities. Companies can conduct a thorough assessment of the different skills gaps within a workforce. This could take the form of surveys, interviews and regular performance evaluations to identify the aspects of peoples’ jobs where they are struggling the most.

Car makers can further incentivise upskilling participation by connecting the dots between specific courses and the qualifications for certain positions. For instance, employees may be more inclined to take a challenging course if they know it could help them become a manufacturing supervisor. Providing a clear pathway towards higher-earning positions makes these roles more attainable, giving employees another reason to stay with their current employer, even during times of change.

The mass adoption of advanced technology is already underway. Upskilling presents the quickest path towards creating workforces that possess the skills and motivation to meet the evolving demands and continuously adapt to industry-wide changes in the manufacturing process.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Gurpreet Singh is Group Vice President at InStride

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