Bat­tery firms wor­ried over ‘brain drain’

The Korea Times - - BUSINESS - By Baek Byung-yeul [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

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.

Cour­tesy of LG Chem

LG Chem em­ploy­ees check bat­tery cells pro­duced at the com­pany’s plant in Ochang, North Chungcheon­g Province in this file photo.

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