Ford Beefing Up Its Hybrid Drive Engineering Team
As the popularity of hybrids increases among consumers, so does the popularity of engineers skilled in designing and developing the vehicles. In fact, they're in high demand, as Ford Motor Company is finding out. The automaker is in the midst of adding about 250 engineers to its hybrid vehicle team by the end of the first quarter of 2006.
Although Ford already hired about 30-40 such engineers this year prior to Bill Ford's announcement in September that Ford Motor Company will build 250,000 hybrids annually by 2010, that commitment has accelerated the effort.
"It's difficult to find people with the required skills because we at Ford have very high standards and prefer to hire engineers with significant experience," said Scott Staley, chief engineer, Ford Hybrid and Fuel Cell Technology Development. "But we're getting our share, and we're very happy with the quality of people that we're attracting."
Staley says about 80 percent of the new engineers will come from within Ford and the majority will have several years of experience. When positions cannot be filled by existing employees due to the special skills required, the company is targeting selected universities and industries for potential candidates.
Specifically, Ford is interested in engineers that have experience in what is called "mechatronics," the marrying of mechanical and electrical systems that are prevalent in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
"Mechatronics goes beyond the basic hybrid powertrain components, like the electric motor," said Tom Watson, manager, Ford Hybrid Electric Vehicle Powertrain Engineering. "For example, the Escape Hybrid has drive-by-wire (electronic) technology for such systems as steering, braking and shifting."
Ohio State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, MIT, Stanford, Illinois and Purdue are among a handful of universities in the U.S. that offer programs that provide such training.
"Over the years, we've established good relationships with certain universities that have enabled us to locate the best graduates of those programs, who have gone on to obtain advanced degrees," said Watson.
Student competitions that Ford has been involved with, such as the HEV Challenge and Future Truck, also provide leads on prospective engineers. Other sources are current Ford suppliers and non-automotive industries, such as aerospace and consumer electronics.
"Right now, this area of the auto industry is really heating up because most all major automakers want to have a presence in the hybrid vehicle segments, and engineers are interested because I think they see hybrid technology ready for prime time and they want to be part of it," explained Staley.
Toyota, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler are among the competitors Ford has encountered while recruiting engineers to work on its hybrid programs. According to Staley, Ford is holding its own.
"We've had several candidates indicate that they were entertaining multiple offers, but I think that Ford is very competitive in the area of compensation," Staley said. "We're serious about hybrid vehicles, and I think that we are a very attractive opportunity for someone in this line of work. In a way, this is Ford retooling itself for the future."
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