Talent Acquisition Fast Facts – The Engineering Talent Gap

Engineers are the bedrock of many of today’s innovations. They develop new products and specify functional requirements; they design and test components, then evaluate a final design’s effectiveness, cost and reliability. They do this continually—applying the principals of science and mathematics to develop economic solutions to a vast array of today’s technical challenges.

Rightly so, Engineers are in exceptionally-high demand across a number of sectors, including Advanced Manufacturing, Financial Services and others. Unfortunately, the demand does not appear to be matching supply.

For a closer look at the Engineering talent landscape, skills needed and current talent trends in this industry, our latest Talent Acquisition Fast Facts:

Authenticating the growing demand for Engineering talent, total worldwide investment in research and development (R&D) in 2012 was $1.4 trillion, split equally among the Americas, Europe and Asia.

However, also according to the National Academy of Engineering, only 4.4% of undergraduate degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities are in Engineering (down 7% from two decades ago).

  • This number rises to 13% in key European countries, such as the UK, Sweden, Finland, Germany, France and Denmark.

  • This number jumps to 23% in key Asian countries, such as India, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore; in fact, in 2013, R&D investments in Asia surpassed those made in the U.S. for the first time in history.

According Manpower Group’s 2014 Talent Shortage Survey, which includes feedback from 37,000 employers across 42 countries, 36% of companies report difficulty filling jobs (largest reported proportion since 2007).

  • 54% of surveyed employers say this talent shortage has a “medium or high” impact on their ability to meet clients’ needs.

Also according to the Manpower Group survey, globally, the top-10 jobs employers are having difficulty filling:

1. Skilled Trade Workers

2. Engineers

3. Technicians

4. Sales Representatives

5. Accounting & Finance Staff

6. Management/Executives

7. Sales Managers

8. IT Staff

9. Office Support Staff

10. Drivers Regionally,

Engineers are also at the top of employers’ “having difficulty filling” lists:

  • Americas (No. 3 hardest job to fill)

  • Asia-Pacific (No. 1)

  • EMEA (No. 2)

Interestingly, Engineers was No. 2 on the global talent shortage list in Manpower Group’s 2013 survey as well. Despite this position being in such high demand and it seemingly being a lucrative career for young professionals, why is there a limited talent supply? Is the fault, perhaps, on that of the employer—for example, ineffective recruiting capabilities, limited career development opportunities and/or poor employer brand?


According to PEAK Technical Staffing USA, a firm that specializes in recruiting Engineering talent in the U.S., there are three trends in particular most impacting the Engineering sector (in 2014 and beyond):

1. “Uspskilling.” Defined as teaching/developing current employees’ skills and capabilities and offering career advancement opportunities, more organizations are undertaking this strategy to retain current Engineering talent and draw in new candidates.

  • However, despite 42% of Engineers expressing job satisfaction, 63% of currently employed Engineers don’t believe their employers are willing to provide training and development opportunities (according to a recent survey conducted by Monster.com)—perhaps highlighting an opportunity for organizations to achieve competitive advantage.

2. Freelancing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveyed 200 of the largest companies in the U.S., finding that, on average, 22% of these companies’ workforces are made up of contract Engineers.

3. Talent Analytics. Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte believes employers of Engineering talent will (and should) lean more heavily on data to track and evaluate Engineers’ performance/productivity: “If we can apply science to improving the selection, management and alignment of people, the returns can be tremendous.”

According to the aforementioned Monster.com survey, 57% of U.S. employers believe the Engineering market is “saturated with qualified talent.”

  • However, butting heads with this, 73% of employers in the U.S. that say they are likely to hire Engineers in 2014 “are not confident” in their ability to find the talent they need.

In the U.S. alone, 68% of HR professionals believe retiring Baby Boomers and the lack of STEM graduates will have a significant impact on U.S. business over the next five years. Is this what is limiting employers’ confidence in finding the right Engineering talent, and does this problem extend to a global level? Is the Engineering sector truly facing a talent shortage, or are organizations simply having difficulty finding the complex, niche skills they need to fill critical Engineering roles?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Submit Comment