Sonntag, 22. März 2009

An acute shortage of engineers?

According to Spiegel Online, Germany currently suffers from an acute and escalating shortage of engineers. The report, which also quotes a so-called "chief innovation consultant to Angela Merkel", says that in recent months, the fight for scarce engineering talent has intensified further, as more and more companies are actively trying to poach staff from competitors.

Which planet are they living on? Let's see: Engineers mainly work for machinery makers, car/truck/airplane makers, and electronics companies. In all those sectors, orders and production are in free-fall. But I'm sure that Qimonda's and Opel's engineers will be happy to hear that they needn't worry about job security as they are about the get poached by the competition...

Oh, and later on in the same Spiegel article, it is stated that every year, 37-43,000 engineers are retiring. At the same time, 44,000 new engineering graduates enter the workforce. Sounds like the supply of engineers is actually going up. In a country where the overall workforce is shrinking.

Engineering has always been a highly cyclical job-market. But it seems to me that the relevant industries have lived through their best times ever during the last few years, and even when the current crisis abates, they are unlikely to return to their previous mega-boom. In addition, engineering has lots of highly specialized sub-disciplines, and people can't easily switch from one area to another. Therefore talking about an overall shortage isn't very helpful, as there are usually shortages in some fields, and significant oversupply in other fields.

Having said that, of course engineering is and will be a very useful profession, and by all means a good thing to study for anyone who is so inclined.

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