Community colleges need to retool their automotive programs to adapt to a changing industry that needs fewer workers with more advanced skills, according to an auto industry researcher.
The U.S. auto industry is not only back, but productivity is continuing to increase and both General Motors and Ford are again profitable, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor and Industry Group at the Center for Automotive Research, who spoke at the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual Workforce Development Institute.
While the news is promising, it’s not great. Production levels, sales and employment rates have not returned to pre-recession levels. The number of jobs in auto production were down 54 percent at the height of the recession and have only come back 26 percent, Dziczek said.
The jobs that have come back are more technology-driven than before, which means workers will need new skill sets, said Dziczek, who noted that more than 80 percent of vehicles produced by Toyota will be hybrids by 2020. Small trucks will increasingly have turbo-charged motors, and there’s a big push for more fuel-efficient, motor-assist vehicles, she said. Also, manufacturers are using new composite materials that promote both fuel economy and safety. The materials are bonded with adhesives rather than welding. (Read more.)