To anyone looking for work, it might sound strange to hear that some sectors of the economy are struggling to find and retain workers, but that’s the situation many engineering companies find themselves in.
Finding, educating, training and retaining talented young people is not just a dilemma for engineering companies in one region or country, it’s a global issue.
But, paradoxically, while companies in some countries say there’s a problem finding engineering graduates, in other countries such as India, large numbers of engineering graduates are reportedly not having much luck finding jobs.
In those countries where there is a shortage, such as Germany and maybe the US, it’s not at crisis levels yet, but it’s a complication that large industrial companies are trying to alleviate in a variety of ways.
The trouble seems to start at the education level – simply put, not enough students are choosing maths and science subjects in some countries.
And if they are, they tend to be computer-oriented, which isn’t bad at all – no subject is bad, and education in anything is generally a good thing. But maths and science are the most difficult subjects, and not many students would describe them as enjoyable.
Moreover, mechatronics doesn’t seem to have as much appeal as “tech” – which brings to mind companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple.
According to a study by the World Economic Forum, via ShortSleeveAndTieClub.com, the countries with the most engineering graduates in 2015 were as follows:
- Russia: 454,436
- United States: 237,826
- Iran: 233,695
- Japan: 168,214
- South Korea: 147,858
- Indonesia: 140,169
- Ukraine: 130,391
- Mexico: 113,944
- France: 104,746
- Vietnam: 100,390
WEF says statistics for China and India were not available at the time, so we had a look round for other sources.
According to the All India Council for Technical Education, via DazeInfo.com, a staggering 1.5 million engineering graduates emerge from educational establishments in the country each year – and most of them are unemployed for a long while.
The difficulty here is that it’s not a like-for-like comparison, as many – or even most – of those graduates probably studied computers rather than anything to do with industrial machinery.
A software engineer is obviously not the same as a mechatronics engineer, although it’s clearly a component thereof.
And while China is said to be producing twice as many university graduates a year as the US – 8 million, according to WEF – engineering as a subject is relatively new as popular subject.
But popular it has become, says WEF. “Growth in the number of engineering students has been particularly explosive as part of the government’s push to develop a technical workforce which can drive innovation.”
Meanwhile, in the US, according to the American Society for Engineering Education, via Quora, says approximately 100,000 students graduate with engineering degrees.
But that has not enough to supply an industry which likes to hire people with experience. There seems there isn’t enough experienced engineers around, and not enough young graduates either.
According to an article last year on AutoNews.com, the most-advertised US auto manufacturing job on job site Monster.com was “industrial engineer”, which had average posting length of 49 days.
The second most-advertised job was mechanical engineer with a 46-day posting, which doesn’t necessarily mean the job was filled when removed, says AutoNews.
One notable absentee from the WEF list above is, of course, Germany. Famous worldwide for its industrial companies and engineered products, the country seems to actually produce relatively few engineering graduates.
The gap between the older generation of engineers and the younger generation seems to be sparsely populated with qualified graduates, although we couldn’t find very recent figures on the subject.
In 2011, the IEEE published at article saying Germany faces a shortage of engineers, and said around 40,000 would graduate in engineering that year – electrical and electronic.
That still left a shortage of 6,000 electrical and electronic engineers in 2011, according to the Association of German Engineers.