March 01, 2018

2018: A Dynamic Time for the Local Engineering Job Market

As just about everyone associated with the engineering job market in the eastern New England region is aware, 2017 was quite active!  If you were a qualified job seeker you probably found that you had several opportunities from which to choose.  If you were a firm seeking to hire engineering talent, you probably found that it was challenging to identify good, relevant candidates.  When you did, those candidates most likely weren’t available for long. 

So far, 2018 is picking up right where 2017 left off.  Here are some of our specific observations:

  • Over the past year or so hiring has increased across all spectrums: direct hiring, contract, and contract-to-direct. 
  • Contract hiring is robust, for roles from CAD drafters to Embedded Software Engineers, and many firms are keeping contractors for longer periods of time (5+ months). 
  • While we are seeing an increase in the demand for contractors, it continues to be more difficult than in previous times to find engineering professionals willing to consider contracting.  This is true for many, but not all, engineering fields and experience levels.
  • Many of our clients initially bringing on contractors are converting them to direct staff earlier than anticipated.
  • The demand for CAD designers is stronger than in recent memory.
  • If firms want to hire their top-choice candidate it’s important that their hiring cycle be efficient and time-sensitive.  The most sought-after candidates have multiple opportunities and don’t remain viable options for long.  If hiring firms can’t keep the hiring process moving forward with a reasonable pace, candidates will lose interest and move on.
  • Many firms interested in hiring engineering talent are showing more flexibility and creativity in their offers to candidates.  This may include flexible hours, a more robust incentive bonus schedule, some ability to work off-site, a position specifically tailored to the candidate’s strengths and goals, or any number of perks to promote a healthy work-life balance. 

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index in January rose to a 17-year high.  In its report, AIM noted that “Growing enthusiasm about the Massachusetts economy and a brightening outlook on economic conditions six months from now fueled the January confidence increase.”  Indeed, AIM reports that “employers anticipate steady growth during the first two quarters of 2018”.  

In an observation that will resonate with many firms, AIM comments that “low unemployment and demographic shifts continued to impede the ability of employers to find the workers they need”, expressing a concern that “labor shortages may constrict the ability of companies to grow and expand”.

The volume of direct hire search requests we receive from local clients seems to validate this concern. Frequently, firms are finding that it is not enough to simply advertise their critical technical job openings and wait for qualified candidates to respond.  The most desirable candidates are usually passive job seekers who aren’t perusing job postings, and more and more firms are realizing that they don’t have the internal recruiting expertise (or time) to find and cultivate relationships with these passive candidates.

All-in-all, the employment outlook for engineering professionals in 2018 remains quite positive. Talented candidates should have career-enhancing opportunities available to them, while firms seeking to hire top-tier engineering staff may need to fine-tune their hiring process to present their opportunities to candidates in the most attractive and timely manner.