12/7/2016 | 1 MINUTE READ

Engineering Talent

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BMW expects half its engineers and researchers will be software specialists within five years.

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BMW expects half its engineers and researchers will be software specialists within five years. This compares with about 20% today. The increase is necessary to develop the sophisticated algorithms and other electronic systems needed to enable next-generation connectivity and driver-assist technologies, explains Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s board member in charge of research and development. The goal, he said recently, is to provide customers with the market’s “most intelligent car.”    

But finding and retaining top software engineers may be easier said than done. Competition for any type of engineer typically is fierce, given long-standing shortages and increasing demand for them across industries. The situation is exacerbated when it comes to software engineers, who are in even greater demand and tend to favor jobs with tech companies and startups.

A quick way for a carmaker or supplier to add engineering talent is by buying or partnering with a tech company.  Ford illustrated this with its investment earlier this year in Palo Alto, Calif.-based Pivotal Software. The carmaker plans to tap into Pivotal’s expertise to help its own engineers learn how to better leverage and expand their software development skills from vehicle-focused technologies to consumer applications.

Mega-suppliers such as Bosch, Continental, Delphi, Magna and Visteon—which already have an abundance of software engineers thanks to their focus on electronic systems—now are turning them loose on autonomous vehicle systems. Bosch has said that it increased the number of engineers working on automated driver assist products from 1,300 to 2,000 over a two-year period.

To help ensure young engineers have the right skill sets, companies need to work with colleges to develop academic curriculums that prepare them to handle changing industry needs and the convergence of various technologies and disciplines, says Carlo Bailo, assistant vice president-mobility research and development, Ohio State University. Bailo, who previously was in charge of r&d for Nissan Americas, also advocates for companies to increase their continuing education efforts.