© istockphoto.com/Rudzhan Nagiev

More Competences – More Opportunities

Team of Steinbeis experts participates in study on staff training needs in the automotive and OEM supply industry

How is the automotive industry performing at the moment, especially when it comes to staff training? What areas in particular do the employees of such companies need training in? Answers to these questions are offered by a study conducted by bwcon research and Aalen University Graduate Campus among twenty companies from the automotive and OEM supply industry in Baden-Wuerttemberg.

The companies surveyed for the study cited a variety of issues and challenges that they currently face, from the universal challenge of digital transformation, deemed relevant by 37% of companies, to skilled worker shortages, which at 58% of firms was the problem most frequently mentioned by respondents.

This situation is now causing a number of companies to attempt to recruit skilled workers outside Germany. In addition, a central task for just under half of companies is to provide training to currently employed skilled workers. In particular, there is demand for specialists with an understanding of electric vehicles, self-driving vehicles, and digital integration. For example, ongoing developments in electric vehicles call for experts who are familiar with the specific requirements of battery technology, charging stations, and energy management systems. With respect to autonomous driving, the study shows that staff should possess specialist skills in artificial intelligence, sensor technology, and data analysis.

Focusing on management workers

It is important that consideration is not restricted to technological factors, but is also given to the implications, changes, and opportunities faced by managers and their co-workers. The survey found that executives are particularly likely to face challenges when it comes to virtual and hybrid leadership (say 53%) – particularly due to digital transformation and accelerated developments resulting from the pandemic. Roughly 26% of managers stated that successful leaders face more expectations than ever when it comes to accelerating their own learning curves.

With digital transformation, it’s particularly important that people within the organization feel they are part of the process and that the right mindset is established. “Managers at the company must play a key role in supporting the change process – they must show employees the opportunities it leads to. It’s also important to sensitize people to the key concept of lifelong learning and to establish this mindset,” says Elena Drögemüller, Steinbeis expert at bwcon research, pointing to one of the key insights gained from the study.

The future focus on staff development

 Roughly 84% of the surveyed companies stated that staff training is extremely important within the company. “That said, one thing that can be deduced from the interviews conducted for the study is that companies go about this differently,” reveals Drögemüller. Some respondents described being often short of time, resources, or budgets to deal with this issue professionally. This contrasted with around 58% of the companies that are stepping up their HR development programs, partly due to the shortage of skilled workers.

In focusing more closely on staff training in the future, firms will concentrate on a number of current topics: the technologies of the future – such as electric vehicles, self-driving vehicles, high-voltage systems, fuel cells, and hydrogen technology. Further high-priority areas for those companies are (agile) project management and time management, as well as training for managers in virtual leadership and resilience.

According to the surveyed companies, however, there are further topics of central importance. These include: the ongoing development of hard skills, such as engineering software know-how (particularly CAD systems, like CATIA for creating and analyzing complex 3D models, or CAM and ERP systems for project planning); customer order management; order processing; invoicing and accounting.

“Another important aspect that became clear in the study is the need for closer interdisciplinary collaboration,” says Drögemüller. Modern vehicles are now so complex that this requires seamless integration between engineering, design, production, and selling. To develop more efficient processes and innovative solutions, specialists are needed with multidisciplinary knowledge and skills. This can be achieved through partnerships between companies, but also with high schools and universities. Almost all of the companies surveyed said they were interested in such collaboration arrangements.

Seeing challenges as opportunities

In addition to providing a snapshot of current challenges, the findings of the study also highlight a number of interesting opportunities for the industry. Growing demand for environmentally friendly vehicles and sustainable travel solutions is opening up a door to new markets, and this calls for the development of innovative products and technologies. This is an opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves within the market and tap into new business models.

Posing a question – “What should we do when there are no more combustion engines?” – points to some interesting possibilities. One promising solution in this respect could come in the form of data-centric business models. To meet the aforementioned need to provide training, this is a challenge as much to companies as it is to educational establishments. To develop made-to-measure training programs, close cooperation is needed between the different parties on both sides of the equation.

In summary, the study shows that the automotive and OEM supply industry faces major challenges, driven not only by technological developments but also by the advent of new drive and vehicle concepts. Training is primarily needed in the areas of electronics, battery technology, software development, and data analysis. Aside from these specialist areas, interdisciplinary competences such as leadership, agile methods, resilience, and project management are also becoming much more important. To remain competitive, companies must rethink their business models, and both educational establishments and business enterprises must adapt their training programs and staff development measures to meet future requirements.

The study was conducted as part of a collaboration agreement between bwcon research and Aalen University Graduate Campus. This project was conducted under the auspices of so-called training associations, the role of which is to support companies throughout the German automotive industry by providing staff with targeted, needs-based training funded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The companies that participated in the study are partners of the vtb, a technology and education association based in Oberschwaben near Lake Constance (www.weiterbildungsverbund-vtb.de), and TransferFuture (www.transferfuture.de).



Elena Droegemueller (author)
Entwicklung technologieorientierter Weiterbildung
bwcon research gGmbH