Where Are the Young Engineers?

We’ve written before about the Skills Gap — the lack of trained tech workers in the face of a growing need for trained tech workers. There is some controversy over whether or not the Skills Gap exists, but most employers seem to agree that they want to hire engineers — and only 5% of our college students are training in engineering.

A LinkedIn discussion about the dearth of young engineers in the field of automation brought up a range of possible reasons, from inadequate education to offshoring to the possibility that our field isn’t that exciting.

It’s obviously not true that our field is not exciting, but it can’t be denied that a lot of the sexy stuff in motion control innovation ends up in computer gaming rather than corrugated cardboard manufacture. The things we do to attract kids to STEM fields, like robotics competitions, doesn’t necessarily direct them toward troubleshooting servos.

engineerAnother problem noted in the LinkedIn discussion is that the skills needed to deal with industrial motion control require engineers to be well-versed in doing many tasks across many disciplines. Automation engineering requires skills in diverse areas such as IT, mechanics, and electronics. Manufacturers aren’t always willing to make the investment in new grads that would help them get that experience.

Education programs need to respond to these needs better, say many engineers. Others say internships and learning opportunities in the workplace are more important because of the practical applications.

It didn’t come up in the referenced discussion, but educators have also pointed out how few women go into tech fields (23.9% in STEM fields), even though women now make up more than half the college students. That means that the total pool from which we pull engineers is smaller than the total pool from which we pull, say, teachers.

It’s a sobering thought. We may not be able to solve the problem, but we can help if you need Indramat or Rexroth support. Call us any time.

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