Engineers, employers differ on availability of qualified job candidates

Engineers and engineering employers have different opinions about whether not there are qualified candidates available for engineering jobs on offer.

For evidence, check out a recent poll taken by the jobs website Monster.com. Monster got responses from about 6,000 engineers and technicians that use its site. More than half (57%) claim the job market is saturated with qualified talent.  Only 37% say employers are willing to support job training and just 11% are extremely confident they could find a new job in the next year.

But when Monster surveyed employers recruiting for engineering talent, only 39% thought they'd have any luck filling engineering jobs. They blaimed a lack of qualified candidates, highly specialized job requirements and non-competitive salary requirements.

By volume, mechanical and electrical engineering were the second and third most popular posted positions over the last four months. The top two regions for engineering job posts over the same time frame were  Houston and New York City.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

steelwheel (not verified)
on Aug 15, 2013

Employers partially have that opinion because they people looking aren't qualified to evaluate and interview engineers at the screening step. The other part of it is answered by the employers " non-competitive salaries". There is no longterm lack of skill in this country, there is a lack of companies willing to pay for it.

Kenneth Davis (not verified)
on Aug 15, 2013

Horse Manure.

THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF “STEM”-WORKERS IN AMERICA.

Web searches for the phrases “older engineer” and “unemployed engineer” reveal informed testimony- and comments such as:

* “The United States has arranged to produce more knowledge workers than we can employ, creating a labor-excess economy that keeps labor costs down and productivity high.”

* "One might ask why, in the face of such evidence, we still hear spirited claims that there are too few engineers. …What you are hearing is simply the expressions by interest groups and their lobbyists.”

* “…Companies often create the very shortages they decry by insisting on applicants who meet EVERY item on a detailed list of qualifications.”

* “In some engineering fields, the 40-year level is becoming almost as much a turning point for some engineers as it is for professional athletes. In the software area, it certainly happens at 35 and often lower…”

* “One of America's dirty little secrets is that most engineers over 50 are underemployed or long-term unemployed.”

This “shortage issue” is largely the result of MBA’s (and the “1%”) romping unfettered. MBA’s are trained to “take costs out of the system;” however, I cannot recall one instance in my manufacturing career wherein they have appreciably FIXED anything. (And by the time a firm figures-out how badly the “Golden Children” have screwed things up, said MBA’s have moved-on to their next “victims” –- leaving a cold-, putrefying mess for those who remain.)

* MBA’s instruct HR departments to “cut heads” –- and fold several jobs into a single position. Most STEM employees with any experience can recognize a “suicide mission” when they see one –- and avoid such jobs (at least until the compensation offsets the pain involved). As such, the Employers are creating their own staffing challenges. Sadly, it’s also not hard to find Engineering job postings with superhero-level requirements -- offering entry-level pay.

* In the past, a Company –- upon finding a candidate with 85% of the skills sought –- would (a.) throw-up both hands and yell “TOUCHDOWN!” and (b.) make-up for the 15% deficit via in-house training. These days, one of the first “costs” to get cut is the “Training”-budget. (Q: Whose idea was that? All together, now…) Companies as a result must “poach” experienced candidates from each other. The MBA’s solution is to throw money down the throats of recruiters -- who (a.) reap FAR more than the training cost of the "85% employee" and (b.) can be conveniently blamed for not finding “the right fit." Once Again –- Employers are creating their own problem.

* NPR once aired a story on an MIT-developed suit which acquaints a younger wearer with the physical challenges of an aged body. Q: Why not just walk-across-the-hall and tap the perspective of an OLDER scientist/engineer? A: “Because there are increasingly-fewer of them.”

Unfortunately, you can’t “drain a pool’s ‘institutional wisdom’” and expect to swim in deep profits for Olympic-durations. Business Owners have the choice of hiring (and keeping) whomever they choose. Unfortunately –- as was the case when the country began -- the "1%" wants disposable-, “abusable” CHEAP LABOR –- and older STEM workers are neither “cheap” nor “abusable.” Americans would be STUNNED at the number of under- & unemployed U.S. STEM-workers over age 50. Age discrimination is rampant; again, thank the “cost cutters.”

In summary –
* America HAS A SUFFICIENT SUPPLY of STEM graduates NOW.

* Corporate USA is consciously FORCING STEM graduates OUT of these fields.

Greed often requires painful remedies -– and the last thing the “Job Creators” want is to actually be subject to the Law of “Supply and Demand” when said law doesn’t favor THEM.

From A Long-Term-Unemployed-, 52-Year-Old-, STEM-Degree-Holder.

Frederick W Perez, P.E. (not verified)
on Aug 16, 2013

I am seventy six years old and have been successfully working as an independent mechanical design engineer in aerospace and defense related industries since 1980. I have found that most corporations treat as laborers and the term engineer is applied to any one they choose to hang the title engineer on regardless of their competence. I have personally witnessed so called chief engineers who would not qualify as competent draftsmen. It is the lack of professionalism among the rank of all the engineering disciplines in the U.S. that fosters this condition.
My initial glimpse of this was the laying off of thousands of engineers at the end of the Apollo project at North American Aviation without giving any of them the opportunity to transfer to other positions withing the company.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 27, 2013

I know a highly skilled, talented engineer with loads of experience. He's been out of work since October 2011. He puts the lie to the claim that there is a shortage of qualified people.

After 35 years in engineering and manufacturing, I've learned to expect this from the business community. It's how they keep wages down. They get the government to fund education for techs and engineers, and that enables the employers to say, "Why should I pay you $X, when I can get two new graduates for $Y."

Now I realize I can't accuse all employers of this tactic. Other simply don't know HOW to search for engineering and science talent. They let unqualified human resources people filter resumes. Engineering and production managers never see the qualified people who are being turned away. I once applied for a job at Dupont called "Engineering Tech 2". (That was there internal name for an experienced engineering tech.) I had been employed as a Senior Development Tech at another company for years. I had the perfect background for the Dupont job, but couldn't get an interview. I was VERY persistant, almost pushy, and finally managed to talk to a key person of the HR staff. She said I could not be considered for the "Engineering Tech 2" job, because I was a "Senior Development Tech". This is the kind of thinking that keeps good candidates away. The woman wasn't familiar with any of the requirements for the job, or any of the technologies.

Companies also get hung up on an arbitrary requirement for a degree, or advanced degree. There are still a number of very qualified people out there without degrees who can run rings around many degreed people. And it is easy to test that, once you get people in the door. You give people a technical test.

Finally, I should say that some companies do skills assessments of their people to see if they have anyone on staff with the special requirements for a particular project. Then they IGNORE the results!

Post new comment
or to use your Machine Design ID
What's From the Editor's Desk?

The Editor’s Desk focuses on the engineering profession and its impact on society, trends in engineering compensation, and the education of engineers.

Contributors

Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
Blog Archive
Connect With Us