Manufacturing and Detroit spur software job growth

Software hiring is being fanned by an unlikely sector -- manufacturing. A rebound in manufacturing is spurring IT hiring.

Software hiring is being fanned by an unlikely sector -- manufacturing.

As other elements of the economy return to life, businesses are placing orders for finished goods and manufacturers are restarting their assembly lines. The sector is growing at its fastest pace in seven years. They need to employees to run them.

According to a March survey by KPMG International (via IndustryWeek):

  • 41 percent of U.S. manufacturing executives expect employment to increase, up from 28 percent in October
  • 68 percent of manufacturing executives expect improved business activity, compared with 57 percent in October.

And much of the hiring will focus on areas that impact operational efficiency, especially software, claims Derek Singleton, who writes The Manufacturing Blog for

...positions requiring brawn over brains are expected to decline... The increases in historical manufacturing roles that value high-tech skills will be coupled by increases in employment of workers with engineering skills. These roles will be defined by creating more efficient manufacturing and supply chain processes, and engineering better and more efficient machines. I think it is safe to say that the following jobs will play a significant role in the future of manufacturing.

The National Association of Manufacturers reports 80 percent of its member organizations "are having difficulty finding qualified employees for today's high-tech workplace." (via Waste Management World)

... the problem is broadening, not getting better," [Laura Narvaiz, vice president, communications with The Manufacturing Institute] observes. "In the next few years, seven million manufacturers will retire. That's half the manufacturing workforce. We're competing with companies all over the world [for skilled labor]. There's a shortage of skilled people across the board-health care, construction, rebuilding of infrastructure."

In Detroit, an unlikely place where an unlikely sector is bouncing back, the auto industry can't hire enough software developers and engineers. It turns out, the sophisticated nature of in-car entertainment and navigation systems is driving a cottage industry of software makers including Pandora Media and Google. Detroit businesses have exhausted the supply of computer science graduates at Michigan schools, Bloomberg reported.

"If we filled every opening that's been posted or recruited just in the Lansing area, we'd be able to hire out all of our graduates three times over," said Garth Motschenbacher, who helps place computer-science graduates at Michigan State University. About 70 percent of the school's 54 students scheduled to graduate in May have jobs lined up, he said. "The number of students has not kept up with the opportunities."

Those employers have now taken to recruiting graduates from the rich software farms of California colleges and poaching from established Silicon Valley companies.

Action-oriented candidates

Who is best fit for a fast hire for manufacturing? Frank Laux, the president and founder of Strategic Search Partners, a manufacturing specialist, hypothesized assembly lines may have shut down too hastily and fired too many as the recession set in.

[They] fired too many - and the echo effect reverberating now is an opportunity for recruiters and job seekers alike. Companies understand that their ability to grow their way out of the recession hinges on these crucial employees; however, a job seeker must be at the top of his game.

Now, those suppliers need candidates who can demonstrate their ability to move the needle on efficiency and affect revenue positively right out of the gate.

"Whomever they hire has to be a success immediately," he said. "There's no margin for error, and there's no learning curve allowed. These candidates have to have experience in management in a really tough economic environment; they have to be able to show they can cut costs, run things more efficiently and generate profits."

Laux said in this industry, "action-oriented candidates" have the best chance of landing a position. Action-oriented candidates generate results immediately; need minimal training; and are ready, willing and able to prove themselves from their first day on the job.

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