With so much disruption in the Automotive Engineering market, what has changed in the industry over the last 18 months and what might the future hold? In this blog, Fields & Rudd senior management team Jamie Rudd, Daniel Fields and Edward Amery explore the current state of the Automotive Engineering market and share their predictions about what the “next normal” could look like. Read on to learn more.
Even before COVID-19, disruptions have been rife in the Automotive Engineering sector. The challenges of the past 18 months have accelerated developments in the market, leaving employers and Engineering professionals alike to wonder what the future might hold.
Our Directors, Jamie Rudd and Daniel Fields, along with Manager Edward Amery, recently sat down to explore the current state of the Automotive Engineering market and what the “next normal” might look like. Below, they share their thoughts on how the market has changed, what we should expect moving forward and advice on recruiting and job searching in the current climate.
An Industry Turned on its Head
The Automotive sector was already facing a worldwide downturn prior to the emergence of COVID-19, but once the pandemic hit, the uncertainty in the market increased exponentially. A large number of projects were put on hold, even in traditional high-growth areas such as e-mobility, production slowed and sales were down for all the major OEMs across Europe and China.
As a result, a large number of professionals working in production and manufacturing lost their jobs, and companies had to stop activities related to R&D and design. According to a 2020 report from KPMG, 80% of automotive companies at the time expected that COVID-19 would directly impact their revenue for 2020, and 78% of them did not have enough staff to run a full production line.
The second half of 2020, however, saw the market explode, with businesses able to recommence projects, putting the sector in a stronger position than it was even before the pandemic. Despite the doom and gloom predictions that were prevalent in the early days, it became clear that the reality was significantly less negative than anticipated. Research from consulting company Kantar, for example, revealed that although new car sales dropped by up to 80% in the tough period of the lockdown, the majority of those intending to buy a vehicle simply postponed their purchase, as opposed to giving it up altogether.
A crucial turning point came after the initial shock of those first few months had worn off, when companies had to reassess how to handle their projects, what the demand for cars was likely to be and how to continue with key activities such as interviewing candidates. As Rudd, explained, there was a distinct difference between the organisations that were able to adapt to the uncertainty and those that were left behind.
“It was a good indicator of the companies that had the right strategies in place to be agile and continue to perform well despite the challenges in the market,” he said. “They’re the companies that are flying now.”
Recruiting in the Next Normal
One of the major shifts that occurred in Automotive Engineering during this time, and is definitely not restricted to just this sector, is in the way companies hire and the new challenges they face in the current employment market. Fields revealed that, instead of the employer-driven market we have seen in previous years, the demand for skilled talent is now outstripping supply and candidates have the upper hand in the hiring process.
“The whole market has shifted to be more candidate driven,” he said. “Eighteen months ago, it was very difficult for candidates to find a position; now, the challenge is for employers to find the right candidate and to offer them a package that meets their expectations.”
Between them, our senior management team highlighted several key changes that have had a big impact on recruitment in recent months, including:
A greater focus on soft skills – There’s been a push from clients towards finding a candidate who is not solely a technical expert but can be customer-facing and is able to interact with different teams and departments. For candidates, this means that personal development, presenting themselves well in the interview and having a well-rounded suite of soft skills (e.g communication, leadership) is crucial.
The need to move quickly to secure top talent – A sense of urgency is crucial for securing skilled talent in this market. Employers can no longer afford to wait and continue interviewing once they’ve found a suitable person as that candidate will likely be gone, so being prompt and getting interviews booked in quickly is essential for securing top talent.
A shift in the perks and benefits candidates are seeking – Offering a competitive salary package is always important, but in the aftermath of the pandemic, work/life balance, flexibility and the opportunity to work from home have become increasingly sought-after among forward-thinking, career-driven Engineering candidates.
Another major change that has come as a result of COVID-19 is the adoption of video interviewing. While this was initially triggered by necessity due to social distancing restrictions, many organisations have recognised the benefits of video interviews and will continue to utilise the technology going forward.
“There are a number of traditional clients I’ve worked with who relied on phone interviews in the past, but video calling software, predominantly MS Teams, has now revolutionised the way they interview,” Amery commented.
Although there will always be a need for in-person interviews in the latter stages of the hiring process, it is likely that video interviewing will remain a popular option for at least the first or second stage interviews.
Forecast for the Future
Looking ahead, the prospects are largely positive for the Automotive Engineering sector. Although no one can know for sure and the performance of sales and OEMs will be major factors, the consensus is an optimistic one.
“I’m confident we are going to see this year out on a positive note because of the number of projects our Tier 1 suppliers are talking about. These kinds of projects will last a couple of years, so it’s highly unlikely we’ll see a dip in the near future,” said Fields.
Indeed, a 2021 report published by MarketsandMarkets predicts that the global Automotive Engineering market will grow at a CAGR of 8.8% from USD 153.3 billion in 2021 to USD 253.9 billion by 2027. The rising demand for connected vehicles, growing EV sales and the adoption of advanced technologies are listed among the top factors expected to boost the market.
In terms of the trends that will transform the industry over the next several years, there are four core pillars to be aware of:
1. Electrification and clean mobility
2. Autonomous driving
There will be plenty of demand for people with these skillsets, so Engineers looking to future-proof their careers should consider upskilling in these areas. Rudd noted that, with the industry evolving faster than ever before, keeping on top of emerging trends and being ready to adapt will be key for businesses and Engineering professionals alike in order to be successful.
“It is widely recognised that the Automotive industry will change more in the next five to 10 years than it has in the last 50, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves further in the future.”