Porsche and BMW, predicting record sales for their luxury German cars this year, are vying to find enough Wunderkinder to make them.
An ageing workforce and declining enrolment in technical studies caused the shortfall of available engineers in their home country to rise to an all-time high of about 77,000 last month, according to the VDI German engineering association.
BMW aims to hire 800 people at its factory in Leipzig, as part of a ¤400 million (Dh2.11 billion) expansion for the production of the i3 electric city car and the i8 hybrid super car. Porsche is recruiting more than 1,000 workers for its plant about 17km away, where it plans to add the new Cajun compact sport-utility vehicle.
"Until about two years ago we had hardly heard of companies in the region struggling to find skilled staff," Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung said in an interview. "But the scarcity of engineers appears to have become an issue now."
The shortage may threaten the competitiveness of BMW, Porsche, Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG as they expand and boost development of electric vehicles. A third of Germany's large companies now consider a shortage of skilled workers as a business risk, according to an August 15 survey of more than 500 companies by the DIHK chamber of industry and commerce. "It's a very serious problem that could hold up research and development of new cars," said Willi Fuchs, director of the VDI association.
Porsche fell as much as ¤1.06, or 2.5 per cent, to ¤40.67 and was down 1.4 per cent in Frankfurt trading. BMW was 0.8 per cent lower at ¤53.38, while Daimler was down 0.4 per cent to ¤35.61. VW gained 0.2 per cent to ¤108.
Demand for new talent will only grow as BMW, VW's Audi, and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz vie for the No. 1 position in the luxury-car segment. BMW, the current leader, forecasts an increase in deliveries to 2 million vehicles by 2020 from 1.6 million this year. Audi and Mercedes both aim to challenge their Munich-based rival for the top spot in the coming years as they target record 2011 sales and expand capacity.
German automakers are looking to counteract the trend by recruiting people outside Germany from growth markets like China and India. They're also partnering with universities to ensure access to new talent and stepping up in-house training programmes to retrain staff on electric-powered vehicles.
Jan Assmann, a German engineering student, got snapped up in a job search that lasted less than two weeks. Assmann, who will earn over ¤40,000 in his first year, only wrote two applications before landing the position. "I was going to stay at university after my studies to do research, but the career opportunities convinced me to take up a job straight away," said the 25-year-old student at the University of Bochum, who was sent a work contract 10 days after applying at a software company.