People dispute whether there is a skill shortage in engineering or not. Unfortunately, some of the recent events across the world, such as the state of the economic situation and impact of covid have contributed to the strengthening of the skill gap. Is there a way out? Will the global economy suffer? This article focuses on the engineering industry. We analyse whether there are missing professionals in this area and what are the reasons.
Current engineering shortage
The engineering and manufacturing industries are crucial sectors that contribute to economic growth and development. The skills shortage affects the global economy as these industries are essential in producing goods and services, including automobiles, household appliances, medical equipment and infrastructure.
Currently, many countries face issues with missing professionals. According to Business Europe – a group that represents more than 20 million businesses from 35 countries – the European Union’s economic growth is being slowed down by a lack of qualified engineers and scientists.
What occupations are in demand for skilled professionals?
As per GlobalData, a top provider of data analytics, more businesses mentioned labour shortages in their filings internationally in 2022 compared to 2021, continuing a recent upward trend. Among the mentioned industries, construction, technology, packaging, and consumer goods are the ones with the most labour shortage discussions.
Skilled professionals are also essential in the successful transition to a more sustainable future, as a lot of renewable energy sources need engineers, electricians and installers. The lack of them can contribute to the delay in the set of countries’ targets in terms of when they will reach net-zero.
According to the latest research by Reuters, in times where the European Union’s plan is to expand solar and wind power, it significantly depends on the renewable energy sources workforce. Unfortunately, there is a lack of electricians that possess solar skills. The data shows that employment in solar power in the EU increased by 30% to around 600,000 jobs in 2022 but as Reuters notes, the EU will need more than 1 million solar workers by 2030 to meet higher renewable energy targets. This includes installation roles, such as solar builders that developers are lacking to find.
Another data source, EETimes Europe, reveals that the most in-demand job profiles in the European microelectronics sector in both 2022 and 2020 were software and design engineers, including system design engineers, digital design engineers, and analogue design engineers.
These are just a few examples that show the value of the issue. There are more skilled professionals needed in Europe, not only in production of services and goods but also in changing the way we function.
The reasons behind the skills shortage
The lack of personnel in engineering and manufacturing industries is having significant effects on the global economy. Starting from downturn in innovation and technological advancement to increased labour costs and deepened skills gap.
The shortage of skilled workers has been a persistent issue for many years and the main reasons are:
- Lack of investment in training and education.
- Lack of interest among young professionals to pursue careers in engineering and manufacturing industries.
- The impact of COVID-19 on the engineering & manufacturing industry causing supply chain issues that emerged from 2020 and peaked in 2021 and 2022.
- Underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, accounting only for 25% in tech roles. Find out more in our research.
- The Russian invasion on Ukraine in early 2022 accelerated global inflation.
- Ageing population: a lot of experienced engineers and manufacturers retiring or leaving the industry.
- No access to engineering work by people with disabilities.
6 ways to overcome the skills shortage
According to ManpowerGroup, 77% of companies are struggling to find employees that meet their requirements. To address the understaffing issue in engineering and manufacturing industries, several solutions need to be implemented.
- Investment in training
Companies need to invest in training and development programs for their staff to ensure they acquire the necessary skills to adapt to new technologies and work processes. This can be a challenge for smaller companies that cannot afford such programs. It might be cheaper to train existing employees than to hire new ones, for example, by providing in-house training with knowledgeable employees who can share their important experience with others. For businesses with a lack of quality resources, it’s a wonderful approach to boost value without investing a lot of time or money.
- Promotion of STEM subjects
There needs to be a concerted effort to promote and educate young people about the opportunities available in STEM fields. Whether countries and governments come up with new initiatives or more universities offer engineering studies. To increase the number of graduates with the necessary skills, not only companies but also educational institutions need to offer courses and training programs aligned with the industry’s needs.
- Re-evaluation of recruiting practices
Hiring the ‘perfect’ candidate might be difficult in times of skills shortages. You can easily recruit candidates that meet most of your requirements and assist them in assuming the post without harming your business. Or you might attempt employing candidates who have all the necessary qualifications but possibly less experience than you had originally sought.
- Offer of competitive compensation and benefits
Successful businesses put a lot of effort into developing a culture that motivates employees to stay with the company. That doesn’t necessarily mean a higher salary. The common and especially popular benefits now are hybrid modes of working that give employees work-life balance, courses, additional annual leave days, benefits packages, etc.
- Rethinking the workforce
We mentioned the ageing population in the beginning; many engineers have retired now. However, some of them are still in business. Regarding part-time employment in 2019, 60% of women over the age of 65 were employed, compared to 48% of all working men in the EU-27, according to Eurostat. Even if you don’t offer them full-time and permanent contracts, retired workers might be a great way to add expertise and abilities to your company. Such individuals not only offer expertise that might otherwise be lacking, but they can also be very helpful in mentoring less experienced staff.
- Investment in technology and automation
The last but not least solution is investing in automation technology to overcome the shortages. How does it work? Companies can invest in automated machines or technologically advanced solutions to help fill skills gaps and improve productivity. This could include implementing robotics and artificial intelligence to perform routine tasks, freeing up skilled workers to focus on more complex work. Read more about robots taking human jobs here.
The effect of skilled employees shortages on the global economy
The shortage of skilled workers in the engineering industry is a significant issue that requires attention and action from industry leaders, educators, and policymakers. Thus addressing the skills shortage in engineering is critical for the industry’s long-term sustainability, as engineering plays a crucial role in driving economic growth and development. We recommend adopting some of the ways described above to overcome the lack of professionals in engineering (and other fields!) and help to ensure that these industries have a skilled and comprehensive workforce.