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Are Engineers Increasingly Picking Detroit As A Workplace Over Silicon Valley?

Jayson Derrick

When you think of companies heavily investing in self-driving and autonomous vehicles and related technology, you might think of a Silicon Valley startup or tech giant. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, you might be thinking wrong.

According to the Journal, Detroit-based Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is "at the center of a ferocious" hiring battle to attract some of the top minds working on self-driving and autonomous cars and systems. The company, along with its Detroit-based peers and other automakers across the United States are looking to improve their workplace desirability with young students by building deeper ties with universities, opening offices in Silicon Valley and acquiring startups.

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For example, General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) paid more than $1 billion to acquire Cruise Automation, an autonomous-driving company, and Sidecar Technologies, a startup working on ride-hailing services.

Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE: TM) invested $1 billion in a new artificial intelligence center and hired the 16-person workforce at Jaybridge Robotics, another autonomous vehicle startup company.

Despite their efforts and investments, traditional auto makers are still losing some of their top employees who leave to work at companies like Uber, Faraday Future, Karma Automotive, Atieva, and even Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL).

"The good ones, if they put themselves on the market, can get multiple offers," Valerie Frederickson, chief executive of Silicon Valley-based human resources adviser Frederickson Pribula Li engineers told the Wall Street Journal. Signing bonuses of between $5,000 and $20,000, retention bonuses and tuition repayment aren't uncommon. Software engineers working in the technology sector on average earn nearly $25,000 more a year than those in automotive, not including equity, according to career website Glassdoor.com.

For its part, Silicon Valley-based companies have set up shop in Detroit, but not to operate but to recruit new workers. However, Bill Huffaker, General Motors' global talent acquisition chief suggested the "grass wasn't greener" out West, and many employees who left General Motors for a tech startup were more than eager to come back to work in Detroit.

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