How to win the talent war in the Engineering sector

Engineering is a field which has become increasingly driven by candidates over the last half-dozen years. The number of engineering jobs continues to grow; in fact, engineering was one of the most impressive sectors in terms of growth over the past year, due to the rebound of Canada’s manufacturing sector. Virtually all engineering specialities are experiencing shortages in Canada, with electrical in the top spot for highest paid, followed by mechanical and manufacturing not far behind.

The future continues to look equally bright for engineers, with the demand shifting from eastern to western Canada and over 100,00 jobs coming on stream between 2011 and 2020, according to Randstad. Currently, 20% of engineers are estimated to be over fifty-five and looking to retire soon, so the global gap is only going to widen.

When it comes to engineering trends, tech continues to dominate, with the number one skill sought by employers being knowledge of Computer Aided Design software. Other significant trends include engineering functions focused on process optimization, from Six Sigma to quality assurance; the “smart factory” powered by the Industrial Internet of Things; automation and robotics; and additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing. These days, all companies are technology companies, particularly in the engineering field.

All this demographic and economic change will make finding and attracting qualified talent even more challenging in the coming months and years. As an employer of engineering staff you may be thinking – is there anything I can do to overcome these talent shortages? The good news is you can get ahead of the curve with a proactive approach.

Plan for the Future

Rather than waiting for that plant to open, a new project to start, or a current engineer on staff to finally announce their retirement, consider sourcing talent well ahead of time. Ask yourself – have you assessed your workforce to determine what skills exist internally and contrast those needs with what you will need a year from now?

 Recruit Passive Talent

Publicize your opportunities to those individuals already gainfully employed. Re-think and improve job descriptions and titles, work your referral sources and develop relationships on social media. Update your website regularly with compelling content to share your brand online and create a buzz around your workplace. Even in a buttoned-up field like engineering many companies are using these proactive strategies.

Partner with a recruiting partner before needs emerge

As a Canadian recruiter, I know that many senior managers feel unprepared for upcoming engineering recruiting challenges, whether for full-time, part-time, or contract staff.

With the rapidly evolving technological change required in today’s engineering ecosystem, skills-in-demand also change so frequently that predicting what skills will be necessary in a year takes a partner with specific expertise and engagement with upcoming trends.

The engineering and manufacturing sectors are particularly prone to requiring fast, flexible hiring solutions due to scenarios such as turnover, facility relocation and one-off projects. The right engineering staffing partner is tapped into the market, networking with passive talent and leveraging the most productive channels. They should have the necessary software, skills analysis, and ability to provide any required screening. Ideally, they should be able to support onshore and offshore requirements for internationally based operations or to source internationally for positions hard to fill with local candidates.

In surprise scenarios, the right partner can quickly source new employees or short-term staff to stabilize your organization before timelines are impacted, or existing staff are overwhelmed.

On a separate but related point, more engineers are operating as “free agents” these days than ever before, so it’s important to know how to connect with them. Today, research and development is becoming an “open innovation” model, with collaboration between sponsoring companies, regular employees and various forms of outside consultant engineers all forming a part of the talent acquisition mix.

Make yourself a competitive choice

As the skills gap widens and becomes more sophisticated, salaries will continue to rise to match demand. It’s critical to stay on top of what is a competitive salary for the position you are seeking to fill if you want to create a compelling employee value proposition. This aspect is equally important for making sure your existing staff stays committed. Salary is usually not the sole reason for a candidate to accept a position or to stay long term with an employer, but it is always an important factor.

Invest in training programs and apprenticeships to help employees continue to develop skills and to show that you prioritize employee development. This is one of the key factors in attracting and keeping millennial employees. Think about outreach with universities to provide tomorrow’s candidates with exposure to your brand and your operation.

 Review your benefits plan, are you providing employees with attractive medical and dental, disability and life benefits, as well as assistance programs covering mental health or addictions? Do you have a program that pays for staff to attain additional professional designations?  These types of benefits are usually more attractive to candidates than their corresponding dollar cost. Even in the engineering sector work-life balance and culture are increasingly becoming a factor in the work equation, so don’t overlook them.

Finally, in a competitive market, the company that is in a position to move quickly through the hiring process is most likely to win the best-qualified candidates. If you are considering an attractive candidate process them as quickly as possible to that you make the choice regarding hiring before they make the choice of accepting another offer. Working with a recruiting firm will help you to position yourself for future success in this challenging and exciting industry.