Talent crunch makes BMW, McLaren and others look to Udacity for engineers

Today, Udacity announced partnerships with an additional ten companies to help graduates of its new self-driving car nanodegree program find jobs. The program, launched on the stage of TechCrunch Disrupt last month, aims to bring together a large community of students interested in learning, and eventually contributing, to the front lines of autonomous car development. As one of Udacity’s nanodegree initiatives, it was designed in conjunction with large corporations with hiring in mind.

Previously Udacity had built partnerships with Mercedes-Benz, Nvidia, Otto, and Didi Chuxing. Today however, it is adding BMW,HCL, AutonomouStuff, Elektrobit, HERE, NextEv, Local Motors, McLaren Applied Technologies, Polysync and LeEco to its rosters.

The job of selling a firehose of engineers to companies in the automotive ecosystem already struggling to attract and retain top talent is an easy one. The expanding list of partners serves as corporate validation for the unorthodox re-training of engineers outside of the traditional university pipeline.

The partnerships are further evidence that companies at all levels of the automotive supply chain are doubling down on autonomy as the future of driving. Many of the companies on Udacity’s list have already made their self-driving car initiatives public. McLaren Applied Technologies in particular came into the spotlight when rumors emerged that Apple could have been interested in acquiring the company to build out its own driverless car initiatives.

For students, the new partners are a bit like a jumpstarted alumni network that they would otherwise receive at a more traditional institution. The idea is that up and coming engineers taking part in the Udacity program will be able to play off the company’s network to secure jobs and internship opportunities.

The company will be holding an event alongside a handful of these partners next week to answer questions and build community. The event coincides with the start of the first cohort on the same day. Nothing quite like starting a degree program with a panel on how to get out as soon as humanly possible.