How engineering has changed

With changes taking place throughout the engineering industry, the demand for certain skills and experiences is growing. We spoke with Seth Bland, a Recruitment Consultant at Huxley, to see how engineering has changed and what this means for those working in it.

The biggest change in engineering

In recent years, one of the changes that’s made the biggest impact on the engineering industry is the influx of automation. As Seth explains, “Every industry within engineering is driving towards automation. We’re seeing an increased awareness of automation solutions which, in turn, is leading to them becoming more easily accessible.”

For some, there’s an assumption the majority of jobs will be replacing the need for existing workers. The reality, however, is that automation is typically being used to reduce the number of tasks carried out. In other words, it’s designed to improve efficiency.

As Raconteur explain, automation is being introduced into some of the lower level roles in order to help them become even more effective. This doesn’t mean that people will no longer be required for these roles; instead, their roles will adapt.

How automation impacts engineering companies

“Companies are having to seek out specialist skillsets to help them with automation. And if they’re unable to find them, they rely on systems integrators to provide them with the automation services they’re looking for,” explains Seth. “Either way, niche skills are in higher demand.”

This is something that Forbes agrees with. In a recent article they said that as industries grow as a result of automation, we’ll also see an increased demand for skilled professionals. Not only that, “automation will redefine the value placed on certain skills and create new roles that independent professionals can fill.”

So not only are companies looking to hire people that have an in-depth understanding of automation and implementing that into engineering roles and systems, they’re also seeking people for new roles that will likely come about as a result of automation.

Engineering companies are facing a challenge

And whilst automation is proving to be a positive thing in many ways, engineering organisations are facing a number of challenges; with the skills gap proving to be the biggest. Engineering UK recently shared some interesting statistics surrounding this:

  • Each year, until 2024, 186,000 people with engineering skills will be required in order to fill the skills gap.
  • By 2024, 2.65 million engineering jobs will need to be filled. This is comprised of 234, 000 new positions and 2.42 million leaving the industry.
  • Over ¾ of businesses predict they’re going to need more employers with higher level skills in the next few years.
  • Almost half the engineering enterprises say that struggling to fill vacancies results in a delay for new products and services.

Trying to meet demand isn’t the only issue they’re coming up against either, as Seth explains, “Other issues a number of my clients are facing include fulfilling demand without overstretching their current employees, and growing at an unsustainable rate.”

All of this is posing an issue for companies when it comes to finding candidates that have the skill match required for each role – particularly as requirements for roles are changing, something that Seth has noticed is happening more frequently.

The impact of automation on engineering professionals

As a recent report from Stanford University has shown, artificial intelligence and automation can actually have a positive impact on society and job roles, provided it’s considered fairly. The report states, “If society approaches artificial intelligence (AI) with a more open mind, the technologies emerging from the field could profoundly transform society for the better in the coming decades.”

As more companies introduce automation into their processes, Seth has spotted changes in job roles – in fact, he’s noticing this with almost all the engineering roles he works on. This, coupled with the high demand for professionals, is leading to a candidate driven market.

There’s a lot of opportunity available for engineers at the moment, and this is likely to continue moving forward. For many, they’re having to upskill in order to meet demand and outperform their competition. And for those with the desired experience, there’s the possibility to command higher wages and various benefits.

Whilst the idea of upskilling or learning new skills might not seem like a positive thing to some, this will allow for a lot more responsibility in some cases. And, in general, engineers will have the opportunity to showcase their creativity, demonstrating their worth alongside artificial intelligence and automation.

Engineering skill sets in demand

Throughout 2017, Huxley ran an internal survey of their consultants to discover some of the skill sets that are most in demand within engineering. Below are the top results:

  • PLC Programming
  • SCADA and HML Development
  • Electrical Machine/System Design
  • Factory Acceptance Testing Experience
  • Specifying Customer Requirements
  • Managing Installations
  • Robotics Programming
  • Controls Systems Design

The future of engineering

So, what does the future of engineering look like? Based on what Seth’s seeing in the industry, and from the conversations he has regularly with both clients and candidates, he believes we’ll continue to see a lot of the same trends. 

“Automation will continue to grow, going from strength-to-strength. This is going to lead to the loss of many lower skilled tasks and, potentially, jobs. And the increased demand for highly skilled workers that we’re already seeing will continue.”

Whether you’re looking for a new job within engineering, or want to expand your existing team, Huxley can help. You can either visit our job search or contact us and tell us exactly what you’re looking for. Our consultants are ready to help.

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