Engineering talent is becoming a key differentiator in the future of many global sectors, and economies.
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Engineering professionals are in demand. Indeed, according to a recent World Economic Forum report (The Future of Manufacturing Opportunities to drive economic growth): An estimated 10 million jobs with manufacturing organizations cannot be filled today due to a growing skills gap … Companies and countries that can attract, develop and retain the highest skilled talent – from scientists, researchers and engineers to technicians and skilled production workers – will come out on top. In the race to future prosperity, nothing will matter more than talent.”
It is not only the manufacturing sector that has an engineering shortage, as new technologies vie with established ones for the best talent, and countries with growth aspirations need engineers for large-scale projects. For example, innovation in energy technology includes grid-scale storage, digital-power conversion, compressorless air conditioning and electrochromic windows, clean coal, and electrofuels and new biofuels and, according to a January 2012 McKinsey Quarterly report: “Each has the potential to grow by a factor of ten in the next decade.” Developing such technologies will require significant engineering innovation, led by exceptional engineering talent. Reacting to the engineer shortage in Europe, IRC Global Executive Search Partners (IRC) EMEA region is actively addressing the problem with a plan to recruit engineers for the expanding oil and gas industry, particularly in Norway. The extent of the challenge is reflected in New Europe Online reported in mid-April, 2012: “Norwegian businesses face an alarming demand for engineers and information technology workers. Norway is currently short of 16,000 engineers more than twice as many as last year.” The IRC EMEA region has a wide geographic reach, with alliance member firms in Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom. In India, the engineer shortage is affecting many of the country’s growth sectors. According to a RICS South Asia report (Real Estate and Construction Professionals in India by 2020), released in November 2011, these sectors include: “real estate, construction and infrastructure industry, which is set for big investments over the next five years, [and] faces a huge shortage of engineering, architectural and managerial talent.” The report estimates a demand-supply gap of 82-86% in the core professions group, which includes civil engineers: “India would need nearly four million civil engineers, 396,000 architects and 119,000 planners, on average, over the next decade to deliver forecast real estate space and planned infrastructure. The average supply available is forecast to be 642,000 civil engineers, 65,000 architects and 18,000 planners.” Brazil’s sugar and ethanol sector needs multi skilled engineers, such as a chemical engineer with environmental or agricultural experience.Follow the Money Predictably, the engineer shortage is driving up salaries. In Australia, The Australian News reports that “competition for engineering professionals is escalating within the resources sector, as mining, oil and gas, and energy companies vie with each other, and with contractors and consultants to the sector, for scarce engineering skills. There is strong demand for engineers of virtually all disciplines … which is inflating salaries. And the March 2012 Engineers Australia Salary and Benefits Survey reports a third of engineering posts unfilled, delays in 28% of major projects, and professional engineers’ average base salaries (across both public and private sectors) increasing nine percent in the past twelve months. A recent study by Brazil’s Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) suggests that engineer demand, and lack of certain expertise, will drive up salaries (as reported by Universia Knowledge Wharton). The study reports that between 2004 and 2009, the pay of biotech engineers rose 24.4% while demand rose 35.5%; geologists’ and geophysicists’ salaries rose 11%. It adds that an average economic growth of 2.5%, would see a 13% rise in demand for engineers. Of the 27 engineering disciplines represented in a August 2011 ASME (founded as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) survey, compensation varied from $130,000 in fire protection, and $124,000 in minerals and metals, to an average of $79,227 and $85,000 in agricultural, architectural, geotechnical, structural, HVAC and refrigeration, and civil fields. The median income of a mechanical engineer in 2010 was reported as $93,600. The Future? A One Petro report (published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers [successor to Petroleum Society of Canada]) asked – in 1965 – ‘The Shortage of Engineers - Are We Working on the Solution or Are We Part of the Problem?’ And, more than half a century ago, an article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May 1957 estimated that “by 1965, America will need 630,000 engineers and will have only 530,000.” In the long term, education would seem to be a solution: Canada’s University of Northern B.C. announced in January 2012 that the University’s Board and Senate approved a new major in Civil and Mechanical Engineering, once funding is provided; New conferences are being held to discuss the challenges – such as the IEEE Educon 2010, with its aim ‘to provide an interdisciplinary forum for academic, research and industrial collaboration on teaching methods, practical experiences and research towards the future of global Engineering Education; and The National Academies Press published a free online volume, based on a 2009 workshop held to explore how engineering curricula could be enhanced to better prepare future engineers. The workshop included individuals from industry, academia, government agencies, and professional societies. In the short term, the solution may still be unclear. What is certain is that engineer talent will be a key factor in economic growth – and finding, selecting, hiring and retaining those engineers will need globally aware, proactive search practices.
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