August 16, 2017

An End-of-Summer Update on the Local Engineering Job Market

As the summer season winds down and we prepare to enter the busy fall recruiting period, it's a good time to share some of our observations regarding local hiring trends within the engineering / technical disciplines. For our clients, the year so far has been quite active on the hiring front, with particular demand for degreed engineers. This includes entry-level engineers up to director level, spanning industries from semiconductor to pharmaceutical, from consumer product to civil / MEP, and medical device to nanotechnology. It's an exciting time to be an engineer in the Massachusetts / New Hampshire / Rhode Island region!

Some specific observations:

  • Although it continues to be more difficult than in years past to find engineering talent interested in contracting, there remains a strong network of software / firmware engineers interested in contract roles. As mentioned in previous reports, with attractive direct hire opportunities available in many technical disciplines, fewer candidates are interested in contracts.
  • We have seen more senior-level engineering openings this year, including Vice Presidents and Directors of Engineering, and Engineering Managers. Many of our small to mid-size clients are positioning themselves for growth by staffing these critical management roles.
  • The importance of co-op and internship experience among new graduates remains apparent. Entry-level engineers with solid internship / co-op experience during their college years have a considerable advantage over those who do not have this "real-life" industry exposure.
  • Remaining on the subject of new graduates, we have seen a slight uptick this year in starting salaries, particularly among electrical and chemical engineers.
  • We note a decline in available CAD positions among our client base. This is not a new trend – many years ago firms began expecting their engineers to also design and even draft. While this tendency continues, we do have several clients who run counter to the trend, preferring a senior designer over an engineer for positions with considerable CAD responsibilities.
  • The shortage of civil engineers continues. Our region hasn't recovered from the exodus of civil engineers resulting from the 2008-2009 economic downturn. For years there were very few civil engineering jobs, so many (particularly junior) engineers left the field. Firms seeking civil engineers now are struggling to find talent. The flipside, of course, is that talented civil engineers find themselves with leverage when negotiating with their current employers and abundant opportunities should they have interest in exploring other options.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index recently showed that "Massachusetts employer confidence meandered through the first full month of the summer, edging down during July but remaining well within optimistic territory." The Index has gained ground in five of seven months so far in 2017, and is more than 6 points higher than a year ago. The current Index level indicates "strong confidence among employers in the direction of the state and national economies".

The report continues, mentioning the increasing difficulties many local employers are having filling critical technical job openings. "The labor shortage is a serious issue. We hear anecdotes from companies in multiple industries that are turning away business or postponing expansions..."

This is consistent with the increase in direct hire search requests we are fielding from local clients. Frequently, firms are finding that it is not enough to simply advertise their 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.

This most recent AIM report coupled with our own observations leave us confident that we will see an active finish to the year for local engineering job seekers and employers!