THE SHORTAGE of engineers in Europe has prompted Fiat Group to set up its own graduate recruitment company.
The company will be located in London. Its first job will be to recruit 200 young engineers for jobs with Fiat Auto, Iveco and New Holland.
'We may still be seen as essentially an Italian company, but we are a global player now and there are not enough Italian engineers to go around for our group,' said spokesman Richard Gadeselli.
Peter Hanenberger, senior executive for design, product and manufacturing engineering with Opel, said his company has hired 1,000 new engineers in the past four years. Some came from aerospace, some from competitors, but many had to be hired straight out of university and had to be trained.
'Ten years ago there were about 6,000-6,200 technicians working' at Opel's technical center at Ruesselsheim, he said. 'Now it is 8,800.'
Car companies throughout Europe are experiencing recruitment difficulties.
'There have been very big changes on the engineering side of the motor industry in recent years and this has affected the number and type of engineers being employed,' said Dieter Bergmann, general manager of driveline development for BMW.
'Today's engineers need to be experienced in simulation and other computer-driven techniques and there are not enough graduates with these skills available at the moment.'
He said there is no crisis at BMW, 'but it is certainly a problem and we do have open places for engineers.'
Fiat has decided to seek engineers everywhere.
'The new recruitment company will cast its net worldwide for young graduates aged 24-28,' said Gadeselli. 'This means looking for engineers in North and South America, Europe, the Far East and India.'
Fiat in Brazil has also been working to establish academic links with an engineering emphasis in the state of Minas Gerais where the company's plant is located. The Pontificia Universidade Catolica de Minas Gerais will launch its first master's degree in automotive engineering in partnership with Fiat Automoveis. The course is based on a model developed by the Fiat research center in Turin and the University of Modena.
Education systems in Europe just couldn't adjust quickly enough to meet fluctuating demand.
'Up to 1992 it was not that difficult to hire engineers,' said Bergmann, 'but with economic difficulties in Germany it became very difficult to find a job as an engineer. The numbers studying engineering dropped and in some engineering disciplines the numbers fell by as much as 80 percent.'
The shortage can't last. Europe's automakers value an engineer's approach. Among other engineers high in their companies are Fiat's Roberto Testore and Paolo Cantarella, Daimler's Juergen Hubbert and VW's Ferdinand Piech.