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A Look at Job Prospects During Engineers Week

A Look at Job Prospects During Engineers Week

Are you being paid enough? Do you want a better job? According to a recent survey by Experis, the professional resourcing division of hiring giant Manpower Group, American engineers are more interested in better pay than a better job environment. Released just before Engineers Week, the survey's results found that 40% of engineers looking for a new job want more in salary, bonuses and/or incentives, and only 18% want a better company culture or work environment. Also, the top category of engineers in demand by hiring companies is EEs.

The study's timing was on purpose -- but even so, it's also timely to find out what's happening with established engineers, since so many of the activities in this DiscoverE campaign celebrating engineers are focused on events aimed at the up-and-coming generation. Several major corporations are getting into the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) act this week. Dow Chemical, for example, is funding programs to increase K-12 students' access to hands-on, activity-based STEM education. DuPont is hosting the 26th Annual Engineering Your Tomorrow event on Feb. 28, aimed at inspiring young women to choose careers in science and engineering to make a concrete difference in the world. Northrop Grumman's STEM program will include presentations, visits to classrooms, and student visits to the company's facilities across the nation, as well as activities like egg-drop challenges, and building a "Ping Pong Ball Catapult" and a "Bridge on a Budget." Working with Boys & Girls Clubs and several universities and schools around the country, Raytheon will co-host community events designed to inspire students to pursue a future in STEM.

So what additional light can the Experis study shed on engineering employment and pay? The 2015 Experis Engineering Talent Supply and Demand Survey found that, after the 12% of employers who want EEs, the next biggest demands were for manufacturing engineers at 10% and software engineers at 7%. Those numbers look awfully low, don't they? That's because far more employers say they can't find the applicants they want for their open positions. Forty-six percent say that a lack of applicants is an obstacle to hiring, followed by a lack of experience in those who do apply at 44%, and their lack of technical skills at 32%. And the numbers are much, much higher when it comes to the difficulty of finding engineers to fill mission-critical roles: 86% of employers say this is a problem, and less than 25% say they expect to find the talent they will need in 2015. All of this is a major reason for the STEM activities and for Engineers Week in the first place, but it doesn't look great for current engineers.

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There's also a big mismatch between what employers think and what engineers themselves think about their job prospects. Eighty-two percent of the engineers Experis surveyed are either confident or extremely confident they will not have difficulty finding a new position, and 47% are actively seeking new jobs in 2015. Although 97% are satisfied with their profession, almost a quarter are unhappy with their current positions. Much of this information and other statistics are summarized in an infographic you can find here.

Experis says the survey's data is based on the participation of 1,400 engineers and 100 employers who gave their answers online between Jan. 29 and Feb. 5 this year. That's a short period of time and not a huge group, so maybe the apparent mismatch between employers' perceptions and engineers' perceptions of job prospects is a statistical blip. I'd like to think so. On the other hand, I've been seeing this kind of mismatch for a few decades in Silicon Valley.

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Considering how important engineers are to US manufacturing, it's no surprise so many companies, professional organizations, and educational institutions are coming together this week to celebrate the profession and encourage kids and young people, especially girls and young women, to participate. But are employers' expectations unrealistic? Do US engineers have a realistic perception of their own skills and experience? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 25 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, machine vision, and all kinds of communications.

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