GM Plans to Hire 1,000 Engineers in Canada To Drive a Driverless Future

Tiffany Chang - 1B Chemical
Posted on: June 18, 2016

On June 10, 2016, General Motors announced that approximately 1,000 software positions would be open to the Canadian engineering industry over the next couple of years.

The revamped GM Canada work will focus on developing new automotive systems and technologies pertaining to autonomous vehicles—self-driving vehicles. This means that areas of “Autonomous Vehicle Software & Controls Development, Active Safety and Vehicle Dynamics Technology, Infotainment and Connected Vehicle Technology” will be in heavy demand for qualified engineers.

To announce this milestone of engineering and software work in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne joined GM in Oshawa. Trudeau had met with GM’s CEO Mary Barra at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland back in late January to persuade her to invest in Canada, framing Canada as a secure country to invest in during global economic uncertainty.

Barra was clearly convinced by Mr. Trudeau’s reassurances, and he should be proud that he has managed to convince her to choose Canada as GM’s home base for its advanced vehicle software development.

Ms. Wynne was eager to express the provincial government’s gratitude to GM’s long-term commitment to investing in Ontario and promises that the province’s highly-skilled workforce, world-class university research, and innovation will make this a worthy investment.

Both politicians were optimistic that GM’s investment would create good-paying jobs and a positive feedback loop to catalyze economic growth.

This announcement has some other significant implications, too.

For one, GM will open a new Automotive Software Development Centre in Markham, Ontario. Being a local, I know that an IT cluster surrounds IBM Canada, which is based in my hometown. Having another giant in the city could be another cue for other companies to invest in the Greater Toronto Area and the rest of the province.

Since Toyota decided to put a plant in Woodstock, this is the decade’s biggest auto sector announcement. For an industry that has seen more layoffs than hires in the province, this gives current workers in the industry some hope that there is still a chance for Ontario’s auto industry and engineers thinking of pursuing the industry the confidence they need to wait out the rough patch.

Canada cannot compete with Mexico’s low costs; however, it will be competing with Google, Tesla, Apple, and the other bigs of Silicon Valley. GM’s decision clearly indicates that the company is confident in the province’s ability to produce the engineering talent needed to stay and get ahead at the forefront of self-driving technology.

However, as of yet, it is hard to tell whether this decision will provide Canada with some leverage in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pertaining to the auto industry. In the press release, both parties stayed mum and did not bring up TPP, but it will be interesting to see if Canada can ratify an agreement that takes off some of the international competitive pressure for our country’s auto parts industry.

Personally, I hope that this announcement jolts the rest of the engineering community and gives all current and aspiring engineers faith that there will be work for us once we are ready. I know what it’s like to question the limited number of industry jobs, so I hope that GM’s opportunity is merely one of a cascade and that there will be more to come in which everyone can partake.