Saturday, October 27, 2018

Worker Shortage in Engineering?

Engineering worker shortage
From the sales people on the front lines, to the engineering staff behind the scenes, to the managers in between, every staff member has a powerful influence on the success of a manufacturing company.

But are you facing difficulties in your manufacturing company in filling open positions? Are you finding a lack of skilled and qualified applicants? If the answer is, “yes,” you are not alone.

There are a multitude of factors contributing to the worker shortage in engineering starting with historically low unemployment, the aging population, and economic growth outpacing the rate at which jobs can be filled with trained workers. The talent pool shortage is expected to increase over the next 10 years.

Skilled Workers Aging and Retiring

The baby boomer retirement has been on the horizon for more than a decade, but the recession delayed some of its impact as older workers stayed in their jobs. High unemployment made it easy for businesses to find employees willing to work for less. A significant portion of the current manufacturing workforce is nearing retirement age and as these aged and skilled workers leave the workforce, they take critical industry knowledge with them.

STEM Skills Lacking

In recent years, the lack of STEM courses in high school has produced workers who are relatively unprepared for the demanding tech requirements of 21st century manufacturing jobs. Not only does STEM skills (math, science, and computer skills) prepare young workers for technical jobs, STEM also equips workers with problem solving skills, which is also a potential deficiency in individuals' capabilities for these jobs.

Many Students not Aware of the Industry

For the students who do possess strong STEM skills, they are often unaware of the career paths which would potentially match their skills. Industrial and Systems Engineering degrees are specifically designed to provide students with the skills to design and analyze automated manufacturing processes.

There is also a perception that engineering in manufacturing might not be hi-tech, it may be dangerous and dirty work, and may also be low salary positions. This means that younger workers may not consider the manufacturing industry as a career path.

The industrial sector is experiencing a manufacturing and engineer skills gap and it is up to the stakeholders to understand this critical situation and to look for innovative methods to fill jobs with experienced and knowledgeable engineers. Manufacturing work is increasingly technical, therefore these deficiencies in schooling need to be addressed. How can industry and associations work, in other ways, to bridge the gap?

One opportunity may be the developments in smart manufacturing and the industrial internet of things, connected enterprise strategies, Industry 4.0, robotics, data analytics and product design. These new technologies may logically appeal to the new generation of young people equipped with high tech skills. It points to industry associations and companies to effectively communicate these opportunities within the manufacturing and industrial segment.