An Insight Into the Changing Face of the Engineering Workforce

By DUFF-NORTON | Nov 26, 2018

The engineering workforce has been facing numerous challenges within recent years. Although, from an outsider’s perspective, the profession is as engaged and productive as ever, there’s a shift at large underneath the surface.

Here, we’ll outline the current state of the engineering workforce and provide some insights into the future of the profession.

The typical engineer

Despite an increase of engineering graduates across the globe (in both developed and developing countries), the profession still lacks diversity. In IEEE GlobalSpec’s industry survey, it’s apparent that the workforce is made up of a very specific, unchanging demographic.  


The primary concern is the aging nature of the workforce and the lack of new talent. More than three quarters of engineers are aged between 45 and 65 (or older), whereas only seven percent of respondents had between one to four years’ experience in the industry.

This presents itself as a skills gap issue for the engineering sector. Although the workforce is currently retaining talent, many of its most skilled workers will be expected to retire in the not-so-distant future.


An average of 14 percent of engineers are female, according to a 2012 survey by the US Congress Joint Economic Committee. However, the IEEE GlobalSpec Engineering360 survey states that the share of female engineers within their sample was only five percent.

Productivity and retention

Overall, many employees within the field of engineering feel satisfied and engaged enough within their job role. In IEEE GlobalSpec’s survey, many companies, of all sizes, stated their retention rates of engineers have remained the same over recent years.

Of these companies, 83 percent state that their engineering teams frequently or always meet their work targets, suggesting that a large proportion of engineers are remaining consistently productive at work. What’s more, almost half of engineers surveyed believe that emerging technology is helping them to boost their workplace efficiency.

Cases for leaving

Despite the general satisfaction of the workforce, however, 25 percent of engineers were prepared to leave their role in order to seek new challenges or more interesting work. That said, very few engineers within the sample were entirely dissatisfied with their job or company.

Looming challenges

Every industry has its challenges and engineering is no exception. In light of recent survey results, and the current demographics of the sector, there are numerous challenges that future engineers are expected to face.

  • Recruitment. With a large proportion of the workforce expected to retire soon, the need to recruit and nurture new talent is becoming more and more pressing. Unfortunately, many organizations are finding it hard to fill this skills gap.
  • Time constraints. Many engineers feel that time constraints and time-to-market pressures hinder their design process. In some cases, this can result in mistakes being made.
  • Education. Despite the obvious need for improving knowledge, 14 percent of engineers have no plan for updating their skill sets. This may be a result of organizations not providing enough resources or training programmes to their workers, according to IEEE GlobalSpec.

The future of the engineering workforce

So, where does this leave the engineering workforce? Although these issues aren’t pressing just yet, they present an interesting insight into the future state of the sector.

Without enough talent, resources or skilled workers, the engineering profession may find itself falling short. As a result, the future of the workforce depends highly on the ability of organizations to hire young, skilled individuals and provide workers with the resources they need.

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