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Good Help Is Hard to Find

Last month, my nephew began his first year in college. He hopes someday to get a job in the automotive industry, and I wish him the best of luck. (Note to Ford CEO Alan Mulally: Call me in four years? I know a guy…)

It’s too bad he couldn’t enter the workforce now. In July, more than 8,500 jobs were advertised online in the U.S. auto industry, according to employment research firm Wanted Analytics. That’s a four-year high and a 9 percent increase compared with a year ago.

Of course, advertising for jobs and filling them are two different things. At least that’s what Intel Corp. is finding. Last year, Intel hired 74 people at its semiconductor manufacturing facility in Rio Rancho, NM. Of those, only 19 were New Mexico residents when they were hired.

Intel is strongly motivated to hire locals. As part of a 2004 agreement for the company to use county industrial revenue bonds, at least 60 percent of its new employees must be New Mexico residents. Each year Intel doesn’t meet that goal, it must reimburse the state $100,000.

Since 1995, the company has missed that mark five times—in 2001, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Half of Intel’s new employees came from New Mexico in 2001 and 2006. Locals made up around a third or less of the new hires in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

This is no disrespect to Intel. Liz Shipley, government relations manager at Intel, says finding qualified candidates with advanced engineering degrees is becoming increasingly difficult, not just in New Mexico, but all over the country. “This is not just a New Mexico problem,” she says.

She’s right. According to our latest State of the Profession survey, assemblers required, on average, four to six months to fill a skilled manufacturing position in 2012. That’s too bad, because 40 percent of respondents added staff in 2012. And, on average, those facilities increased their workforce by 13 percent. In short, assemblers spent a lot of time trying to find desperately needed help.

Why should engineering jobs be so hard to fill? According to our State of the Profession survey, the average salary of manufacturing engineers and managers is nearly $88,000. Some 54 percent of our readers earned raises last year, and 45 percent report they are “extremely satisfied” with their jobs. I’ll stack those numbers up against any profession.

To their credit, manufacturers aren’t waiting for the problem to solve itself. Intel has donated millions of dollars to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in New Mexico schools. Intel Teach—the company’s global teacher training initiative—has trained more than 10,000 teachers in New Mexico alone. High-tech companies like Intel aren’t the only manufacturers supporting STEM education, either. For example, the Kia Motors assembly plant in West Point, GA, recently donated $900,000 to the Society of Automotive Engineers Foundation to improve STEM education in Georgia between 2012 and 2014.

 We applaud forward-thinking companies like Intel and Kia for investing in their futures, and we encourage others to follow suit. 

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