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Article | Energy Systems Division

EcoCAR study reveals what graduates want in an employer

The transportation industry’s promise of a future that moves people and products in a safer, more efficient and connected way, has spiked a talent war for a new kind of workforce ― one with the skill sets necessary to develop autonomous and electric vehicle technologies. What is the next generation of engineers looking for in their future employer and careers? EcoCAR, managed by Argonne National Laboratory, surveyed its students to gain an inside look at what this highly sought-after talent desires with career placement.

Automotive and technology companies are looking for the next echelon of talent and the challenges they face in hiring and retaining engineers has become a major topic of discussion,” said Daniel Simmons, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

(Image by Daniel Dobrzynski.)


The EcoCAR findings provide companies with an understanding of what these students want from their employers and careers. Those who take notice will surely gain a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. Through our STEM Rising initiative at DOE, we highlight our investments in STEM outreach and career development to attract the best and the brightest to work with us to help resolve our nation’s energy and security challenges.”

Commissioned by the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge ― and in partnership with KRC Research, the study is based on the online responses of 454 EcoCAR participants from 16 universities across the United States and Canada. The survey’s objective was threefold: to learn what candidates are looking for in an employer; to find where candidates are looking for job opportunities; and to discover who influences candidates in their employment decisions.

When considering an employer, nearly all students say that an employer offering career advancement opportunities (98 percent), having a wage or salary that is competitive (97 percent) and offering learning and development opportunities (96 percent) are important attributes.

For a company to stand out, students are looking for an employer that is trustworthy (99 percent), has a strong, credible reputation (97 percent) and known for being innovative (96 percent).

Eighty one percent of students typically begin their search for employment in earnest in the second half of their undergraduate career. The job search typically begins online with students examining company websites (83 percent), LinkedIn (58 percent) and Glassdoor (56 percent) to find specific information about potential employers. It would, however, benefit companies to invest resources in on-campus recruitment efforts as 65 percent of respondents say they use career fairs to search for actual job openings.

Today’s recruits also follow companies on social media and are primarily interested in and most likely to engage with articles (62 percent) and videos (61 percent) compared to infographics (40 percent) and blog posts (21 percent).

When it comes to seeking guidance, students are most likely to consult with those closest to them, including family (70 percent) and friends (70 percent), as well as mentors (54 percent) and classmates (50 percent).

Regarding the automotive industry, students are particularly interested in pursuing careers that focus on the autonomous capabilities and electrification of vehicles. As students progress in their profession, they hope to advance the ability of vehicles to operate autonomously and to rely more on electricity for propulsion. Nearly four in 10 students say they are interested in working for all three business types (manufacturer, start up, or supplier). Twenty-eight percent said they are interested in working for an automotive manufacturer only, which leaves the majority of students considering jobs at a supplier or a start-up, something that wasn’t the case 10 years ago.

Be sure to follow EcoCAR on Facebook and Twitter for more information.