Battery firms worried over ‘brain drain’
Korean battery companies are struggling with a brain drain as European and Chinese firms are scouting experts, offering paychecks at least two to four times their current salaries here to boost their knowhow in developing batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), industry officials said Sunday.
“It is common knowledge that foreign battery firms have been trying to hire skilled workers from Korean companies through headhunters. They have been approaching the talented workers with a much higher salary than they receive here,” said an official from a local battery firm asking not to be named.
According to a media report, China’s CATL, the world’s largest battery maker, recently offered a job to Korean battery experts, paying three times more than the employee’s current salary. BYD, another battery powerhouse in China, posted an official job ad seeking Korean workers in 2017.
“At a time when the industry is experiencing the growing popularity of EVs, the production capacity of lithium ion batteries will increase explosively in the next few years. To maintain their technological leadership, Korea’s battery firms are required to do more to make their employees feel valued,” the official added.
Swedish battery maker Northvolt has recruited experts from LG Chem and Panasonic of Japan, which are known to have industry leading lithium-ion battery technology. The European company recently made headlines for creating a 50/50 joint venture with Volkswagen to build a lithium-ion battery factory.
Northvolt promoted itself, saying “the company is incredibly diverse, with some 45 nationalities working alongside one another, hailing from companies such as Tesla, Scania, Daimler, LG Chem, Panasonic, Spotify and Google.”
China’s real estate giant Evergrande Group recently posted a job advertisement to recruit 8,000 battery experts for its automobile business subsidiary Evergrande New Energy Automobile.
According to a post on Sept. 9 on its social network service platform, the newly hired talented workers will work at the company’s offices scattered in nine countries — mainland China, Korea, Japan, Sweden, Germany, the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.
Since the Chinese conglomerate acquired a 51 percent stake in National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), a Swedish company that acquired the assets of now-defunct Saab, in January, Evergrande has been working on improving its technological capability in the EV battery sector.
As the group’s chairman Xu Jiayin declared Evergrande aims to become the largest and strongest EV group in the world within five years, experts who join the Chinese company are expected to earn the highest average salaries in the industry.
Given companies in other industries such as the semiconductor, display and shipbuilding sectors, in which Korea has expertise, have had a tough time stemming the outflow of the talented workers, they urged the local battery makers to come up with incentives to retain their key personnel to further strengthen their capabilities in the fast-growing sector.
LG Chem employees check battery cells produced at the company’s plant in Ochang, North Chungcheong Province in this file photo.