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Engineering Solutions to Today’s Talent Shortage

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Engineers are among the toughest spots to fill in the U.S., with 49 percent of employers struggling to find talent. In fact, employers advertised more than 280,000 open engineering positions in 2013 – setting a new high.

Industry Employment Trends Graph

While Congress and universities have enacted programs to support the education and future development of scientists and engineers, engineering managers need immediate solutions. Here are some high-impact strategies to help you compete for top talent today.

Adopt New People Practices

Forty-eight percent of employers are adopting new “people practices” to overcome talent shortages. They’re using professional growth and development to court Gen X and Gen Y engineers according to Shirley Ramos, a training consultant with FMI. Popular offerings include in-house training programs, tuition reimbursement, memberships in professional associations and stretch assignments.

They’re also reshaping their culture, leadership teams and HR policies to satisfy the desire of millennials for adequate pay, community involvement, mentorship and collaboration.

 Promote Your Brand

How important is your firm’s reputation and online presence? A whopping 53 percent of Gen Y’s are applying to jobs through LinkedIn, followed by 19 percent on Google+ and 10 percent via Facebook according to a recent study.

Leading engineering firms aren’t relying on job fairs or ads to connect with young engineers; they’re using social media and blogs to build the brand of their engineering team, market interesting projects and tout the caliber of their engineering challenges.

Once you’ve defined your stories around your engineering challenges, software engineer Pete Soderling suggests that you get your best engineers to tell those stories publicly through meetups, blogs or video interviews. He says smart engineers are like catnip for other smart engineers.

Embrace diversity

With an increasing number of women graduating with degrees in STEM disciplines, engineering firms need to embrace diversity and create an inclusive and support environment to attract the best and the brightest stars.

For example, O’Brien & Gere uses employees as recruiting ambassadors to attract engineers and scientists with diverse backgrounds. The engineering solutions firm created committees of employees with common interests to assist in outreach initiatives. Committee members offer female STEM graduates resumes reviews, mentoring and encouragement while promoting the firm’s unique work environment.

Engineering giant Atkins is offering flexible work schedules to retain and attract female engineers. The strategy not only appeals to women looking to balance work and family, but also to veteran engineers and retirees who want to stay engaged – as long as they can work part-time.

Expand your talent pool

Many U.S. companies are looking overseas to fill critical engineering positions. While others are using CareerBuilder’s Supply & Demand Portal or WANTED Analytics to identify plentiful sources of talent right here in the U.S.

Engineering firms are opening satellite offices in talent-rich markets or offering telecommuting, relocation benefits, higher salaries and other perks to entice out-of-town engineers. They’re also using contract staffing and blended workforce models to expand their talent pools. A great recruiter at a contract staffing company will sell candidates on the value of your organization and the job opening.  Specialized recruiters have access to, and rapport with, highly competent candidates who are not accessible to a less specialized recruiter.

Given the projected talent shortages, and the project nature of engineering work, many firms not only view contractors as an immediate solution to their staffing needs, but also a long-term business strategy.

We enjoy your opinion of our articles and the overall PEAK organization.  Please feel free to post comments below.

Other information of potential interest

What to Look for in Contractor Engineering Resumes

What Engineers Really Want from Employers

Chemistry Lesson: Using Science to Select Culturally Compatible Contractors

Five Myths about Co-Employment

Insightful Interviews: Favorite Questions Asked by Engineering Managers

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12 thoughts on “Engineering Solutions to Today’s Talent Shortage

  1. I am a very talented, multi-faceted, and capable engineer. I have been looking for work for almost 4 years. You say there is shortage, that positions are hard to fill. I can’t even get phone-screen interviews. someone is full of **** (something that isn’t truth). Should an MSEE be relegated to flipping burgers in the middle of this “Scarce Engineer” market?

    1. 4 years??? perhaps, you’ve been limiting your job search to a single geographical location?? Or do you have a very specialized skill set that greatly limits the types of jobs you could be considered for??

  2. I am a very talented, multi-faceted, and capable engineer. I have been looking for work for almost 4 years. You say there is shortage, that positions are hard to fill. I can’t even get phone-screen interviews. someone is full of **** (something that isn’t truth). Should an MSEE be relegated to flipping burgers in the middle of this “Scarce Engineer” market?

    1. 4 years??? perhaps, you’ve been limiting your job search to a single geographical location?? Or do you have a very specialized skill set that greatly limits the types of jobs you could be considered for??

  3. As a contractor in the thick of it who recently spent less than a week on the market for a short-term contract, I can say that there is both a talent shortage and a hiring dementia.

    The ideal candidate for most jobs is aged 21, with five years of industry experience in technologies which are less than one year old. It has been like this for many years and has gotten worse as many tech position are for companies which resemble the jokes being made in telecom commercials regarding 12 year old children running tech start ups.

    In the operations field, overseas hiring has produced a self-replicating cycle of hiring one’s countrymen. I was once interviewed and hired because the company maxed out its H1B allocation and was forced by law to examine local candidates.

    The cure for this is to take a more reality-based view of one’s candidate pool for a history of growth with the industry. It is the candidate’s job to remain relevant as technologies change. Frequently, this can be done to the mutual benefit (and motivation) of both worker and employer.

    Most employers are under the false impression that they can find a technical genius hiding in a slum in another country since nobody understands what we say anyway.

  4. As a contractor in the thick of it who recently spent less than a week on the market for a short-term contract, I can say that there is both a talent shortage and a hiring dementia.

    The ideal candidate for most jobs is aged 21, with five years of industry experience in technologies which are less than one year old. It has been like this for many years and has gotten worse as many tech position are for companies which resemble the jokes being made in telecom commercials regarding 12 year old children running tech start ups.

    In the operations field, overseas hiring has produced a self-replicating cycle of hiring one’s countrymen. I was once interviewed and hired because the company maxed out its H1B allocation and was forced by law to examine local candidates.

    The cure for this is to take a more reality-based view of one’s candidate pool for a history of growth with the industry. It is the candidate’s job to remain relevant as technologies change. Frequently, this can be done to the mutual benefit (and motivation) of both worker and employer.

    Most employers are under the false impression that they can find a technical genius hiding in a slum in another country since nobody understands what we say anyway.

  5. There is no shortage, just shortage of low paid new engineers. Wages are stagnant so some have left the field, new ones won’t enter.
    Next downturn in the economy will find a bunch more unemployed engineers and “not re-trainable”. MBA is better path today.

  6. There is no shortage, just shortage of low paid new engineers. Wages are stagnant so some have left the field, new ones won’t enter.
    Next downturn in the economy will find a bunch more unemployed engineers and “not re-trainable”. MBA is better path today.

  7. Wow, what a dismal outlook an engineer in America faces.These negative comments are spot on. They high light the problem with “managers” not engineers. I got laid off when I asked for a raise. this was after 4 years of stagnation!

    If an engineer doesn’t have an outgoing sales personality, and wants to stay in engineering versus the more lucrative sales career. I would highly recommend Europe, hands down superior in every way. Go there and see, I did an I would be there if I was 20 years younger.

  8. Wow, what a dismal outlook an engineer in America faces.These negative comments are spot on. They high light the problem with “managers” not engineers. I got laid off when I asked for a raise. this was after 4 years of stagnation!

    If an engineer doesn’t have an outgoing sales personality, and wants to stay in engineering versus the more lucrative sales career. I would highly recommend Europe, hands down superior in every way. Go there and see, I did an I would be there if I was 20 years younger.

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