General Motors North America President Mark Reuss said the U.S. is "lagging frightfully behind" other countries in producing new engineering college graduates, according to prepared remarks for a speech he was set to deliver today at the Society of Automotive Engineers Convergence conference in Detroit.
Ruess said automotive innovation is at risk unless the U.S. improves its K-12 educational system and gets more kids interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
"The young people entering our colleges today are the advanced battery engineers, designers and light metals experts of tomorrow," Reuss said. "If they don't choose those paths or are ill-equipped to do so, we'll have a skills shortage that will undermine our resurgence in smart manufacturing."
Reuss also said the auto industry has to do a better job of appealing to prospective engineers.
"We need to convince them that the automotive field is the most dynamic, exciting industry on earth. Because it is, "Reuss said. "Otherwise they will look at other options, and that's a list that is growing every year. There may not be more jobs than before, in number, but the field of opportunity is definitely broader. They'll go to Google, or Apple or SpaceX, or elsewhere."
Reuss' comments come as GM is gearing up its hiring of information technology experts, including software engineers, programmers and database managers.
The new jobs, which include 1,500 new positions over several years at the GM Tech Center in Warren, are part of the automaker's plan to "insource" 90% of its IT work to speed product development.
At Convergence, Reuss announced at the event that GM would produce the Cadillac ELR luxury electric coupe at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. He reiterated GM's belief that vehicle "electrification is inevitable" but "it may take a lot longer than we think before the transformation is complete."
He pointed to recent battery technology advancements at the University of California San Diego and GM's own innovations as reasons to believe electric vehicles are the future.
"Despite what the naysayers may tell you, this industry is headed toward electrification," Reuss said.
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