It’s a very good time to be an engineer, Randstad, the third largest staffing agency in the U.S., states in a recently published analysis.
According to the organization’s Engineering Employee Confidence Index – a quarterly survey that analyzes, in remarkably great detail, engineers’ outlook on the economy, job satisfaction, and industry employment – overall optimism “skyrocketed” in the second quarter, rising a “notable” 7 points from the first quarter.
It’s only the second time the index, which registered 61.9, has climbed over 60 since 2008, before the peak of the Great Recession.
In fact, in a number of categories, engineers reportedly expressed higher employee confidence levels than those in IT, office and administrative, manufacturing, and healthcare, organization officials say.
Richard Zambacca, President of Randstad Engineering, tells Leo Rommel of Industry Today that engineers continue to experience a healthy job market thanks largely to the thriving automotive manufacturing industry, where engineering, according to Wanted Analytics, is among the most in-demand occupations.
“You can also say the same for oil and gas. You can take manufacturing oil and gas and talk about all the peripheral companies that have to provide engineering products for them to do their jobs,” Zambacca explains. “It spawns a whole chain reaction of engineering opportunities around those industries.”
He adds, “Then, you tie in that there’s a common trend to all that, with what we call EPCs: the engineering, procurement, and construction companies. It’s pretty robust in those three areas right now.”
Randstad also reports that manufacturing, energy, and automotive remain the top engineering verticals.
The quarterly study – conducted online in April, May, and June by Harris Interactive on behalf of Randstad Engineering – includes responses from 119 U.S. workers employed in engineering.
Perhaps the survey’s most thumbs-up finding was that 40 percent of engineering professionals believe the economy is getting stronger, a considerable spike from the 26 percent reported in the first quarter.
The newfound confidence, Zambacca suggests, is a driving force behind why engineers believe job prospects are more abundant than they have been for the greater part of the last half decade.
For instance, 62 percent of engineers feel confident in their ability to find a new job, an 11 percent increase from last quarter.
Likewise, 35 percent of engineers believe more jobs are now available, representing a 14 percent increase from the first quarter of 2013. And while 30 percent believe fewer jobs are available this quarter, that percentage is still a sizeable decrease when compared to last quarter’s 47 percent.
Finally, 73 percent say they feel they’re not likely to lose their jobs over the next 12 months, showing no change from the previous quarter.
In a time when job security remains a rarity, that’s encouraging news, Zambacca says.
“Everything ties back to the economy,” he explains. “As things get better and more projects are put into play, engineers are going to feel good about the jobs they’re in, while others are probably going to take the opportunity to look for new jobs now since there’s more out there.”
MORE DEMAND, LACK OF SUPPLY
It’s great news to learn about a sizeable increase in confidence among engineering professionals, Zambacca explains, adding that engineering, in general, historically tends to rate higher in terms of confidence than other disciplines. “Engineers are pretty confident to begin with,” he says.
But he’s not especially surprised, given the severe skills shortage in engineering. In a well-played cause-and-effect scenario, engineers, by and large, have a wider range of options as far as job opportunities, which not only drives confidence but fosters overall career fulfillment, Zambacca says.
It’s also the main reason why countless engineering job vacancies remain unfulfilled.
“It’s not about the aging population not being up-to-date, or the new engineers not having what clients are looking for – there’s just not enough of them,” Zambacca says.
It’s a drought that has been ongoing for years, he says – and much of the sector just does not fully understand why.
Take into account this: Six of the 10 highest-paying degrees, the National Association of Colleges and Employers says, are in engineering fields. Unemployment throughout the sector was a mere 3.4 percent in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, far better than the nation’s overall 7.4 percent.
And because of the lack of qualified workers and the nation’s booming shale gas industry, more and more engineers, especially those with a few years of work experience, are seeing remarkably handsome salary offers, including ones in the six-figure range, according to a recent report by CNNMoney.
But 20-something year olds graduating college with “student loans up to their eyeballs and who can’t find job” remain skeptical about engineering, Zambacca says, adding that only 4 percent of engineering graduates worldwide last year were American. In contrast, he says, 56 percent were from Asia.
“There’s been a real shift in that area over the last few years,” he says. “We’ve got to really do something to get young students engaged in math and science at an earlier age. I say that not because I run an engineering staffing company, but because you become more employable.”
You see, an engineering degree is multifaceted, Zambacca says. Those with such degrees not only have the option of diving into a technologically-driven industry, but they also have the option of pursuing other occupations, related or not related to engineering or manufacturing.
“The flexibility of an engineering degree is so positive because every company is looking for people with analytical and problem solving skills,” he says. “Right there, you fit the role because you’ve been trained as an engineer.”
He adds, “It all depends on how far or what they want to do. If they go in a technical role but feel, for whatever reason, that they don’t like it, there are many other options available to them.”
So, why don’t more youngsters strive to be engineers? Is it, perhaps, not cool? When Zambacca was in high school, during the 1970s, the technical guy was often the odd fellow with the pocket protector.
Or, maybe, is it something else, like the rise of non-mechanical, more idolized professions?
“I think as time went on and technology shifted, many wanted to get into communications, IT, or other fields that they felt were sexier,” he says. “I think engineering has gotten left behind. And I know math and science fields are harder to master, so students saw other opportunities to earn a good living outside of having to maybe work so hard in math or science. We have more career choices here.”
But someone needs to put the brakes on that trend soon, Zambacca says. America now lags behind a number of competing countries in regards to manufacturing scientifically–oriented workers. The U.S. has largely neglected how imperative math and science is to the health and stabilization of the country, and it’s up to grade schools, universities, and even parents to stem the tide.
“Other nations watched what happened to U.S., how it became a great country because of its leadership in technology, and what better way to build your economy and develop national security than with a strong technology base?” Zambacca says. “That starts with your engineers.”
About Randstad Engineering
Randstad Engineering has been matching clients with the expert engineering and technical staff needed to help their companies succeed since 1988. With degreed engineers and expert technical recruiters on staff who understand the unique challenges of your industry, Randstad Engineering partners with companies on their specific business goals by quickly connecting them with the expert professionals to help achieve them. With an extensive network of three million engineers and other technical experts—Randstad Engineering has the right talent to get the job done.