Last week, we heard from Design News Senior Editor Rob Spiegel that engineering job growth is moving slowly . Those figures are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so they're about as good as we can get. But the BLS doesn't measure the leading edge of what's happening in an industry, and when things are moving fast the categories they use don't always reflect today's world.
The BLS categories include aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer hardware, electrical, environmental, health and safety, industrial, materials, mechanical, mining & geological, nuclear, and petroleum engineers. Some of these didn't exist several years ago, it's true, but even today the bureau doesn't break out robotics engineering as a separate category, as we've discovered in previous reports .
One area of engineering that's changing rapidly is reflected in how manufacturers are adapting to 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM). Although the BLS categories may not reflect this yet, companies are looking for engineers with experience of all kinds in 3D printing and AM. According to Upwork, demand has risen sharply in the first half of 2016 versus the same period last year. The company, which bills itself as the world's largest freelance website, was created last year after the merger of Elance and oDesk.
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During this period, demand for 3D printing-related skills increased between 83% and 227% depending on the category, Upwork's categories director Ryan Johnson told Design News . Since about half of the website's three million annual job postings are in IT and technology, including engineering, this represents a huge jump in demand. The site's engineering categories include mechanical, electrical, civil and structural, chemical, and software, among others, and the number of total freelancers listed on it exceeds 12 million.
"We're seeing a lot of growth in engineering job requests related to additive manufacturing skills and knowledge," said Johnson. "As the costs of 3D printing come down, more companies are getting into AM, and they want to fill their talent gap for civil, structural, and mechanical engineers. They're looking for 3D modelers, 3D printer technicians, and design engineers, people who can contract with service bureaus to get prototypes made, or individuals doing models and prototyping."
During the first half of this year, demand for independent contractors to create the physical product and/or prototypes, or work with a service bureau to get it done, rose 94% over the same period last year, said Johnson. Demand for 3D rendering skills rose 83%, and for CAD and AutoCAD-related skills by 227%. That last category includes programs like AutoCAD, 3ds Max, and Google SketchUp. Demand for engineers skilled in SolidWorks for