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workforce New vehicle materials and demographic shifts require new skills


Kristin Dziczek


Center for Automotive Research


New Materials/New Skills O


ver the past decade, governments in North and South America, Europe, and Asia have enacted stricter fuel economy and emissions requirements.


To comply with these regulations, the automotive industry has focused research and development efforts on improving the effi ciency of the internal combustion engine, implementing new powertrain technologies, lowering the costs of vehicle electrifi cation, and reducing vehicle mass—also known as light weighting. Mass reduction is complementary to all other effi - ciency efforts; simply stated, lower weights require less energy to move. Estimates of the effi ciency gains from mass reduction vary, but frequently state that a 10% reduction in vehicle mass, when coupled with powertrain downsizing, improves the fuel economy of a gasoline vehicle by 6–7% (Ricardo-AEA, 2015). Overall, the average weight of a new light vehicle in the United States rose steadily from model year 1982 through 2011. From 2011 through 2016, the average weight fell 3.4%. Consumer and regulatory demands affect the overall average vehicle weight—with comfort and convenience features comprising a larger and larger share of total vehicle weight over time. (Zoepf, 2010) The trend toward greater use of lightweight materials means that automakers are increasingly relying on novel materials and a greater mix of materials in each vehicle, and these material changes have the potential to affect the work of skilled trades workers and technicians who are employed by fi rms in the automotive tool, die & mold industries. The Center for Automotive Research, with support from the Arconic Foundation, conducted a study to determine the impact of new materials on new skills for skilled trades work- ers. This research focused primarily on tool & die workers, and involved data analysis using primary and secondary sources, literature review, and interviews with key stakehold- ers at automakers, suppliers, tool & die shops, equipment vendors, and educational institutions.


Designing, analyzing, and building automotive tools, dies, molds, jigs, and fi xtures to form and join the wide array


of new and advanced materials that are being incorporated in current and future vehicle models may change skill needs not only for incumbent workers, but also for the future workforce. Much of incumbent worker training on forming new materials and using new processes is being conducted by automakers, suppliers, and equipment vendors, and may take time before being incorporated in curricula for new skilled trades apprentices. There are three main challenges facing automotive tool &


die producers—both at the large automakers and suppliers, and at small shops: 1. new materials and new processes, 2. an aging workforce, and 3. implications of trade and purchasing decisions on training opportunities for apprenticeships.


Challenge 1: New Materials and New Processes Key industry stakeholders and lightweighting subject matter experts interviewed by CAR researchers broadly supported the hypothesis that new materials and processes are driving skills changes for tool & die and other skilled trades workers. While there are many constants—such as the industry still requiring skilled trades workers who have a lifelong learning commitment, machining knowledge, and mathematical ability—some specialized skills for tool & die workers in the motor vehicle and parts industries are in par- ticularly high demand. In terms of more general or “baseline” skill demand for motor vehicle and parts tool & die workers, troubleshooting, communication, and computer skills top the list of high-demand skills.


Challenge 2: An Aging Workforce Turnover and retirement trends affect all trades occupa- tions, but tool & die trades pose a unique challenge for the future. The automotive industry is on the verge of running out of skilled tool & die makers who can make tools work in tryout and production. At some fi rms, up to three-quarters of


70 — Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing 2017


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