Navigating the Engineer Shortage: 5 Practical Steps for Talent Acquisition and Retention

by AEG on April 18, 2024 in Engineering

Overall employment in engineering occupations is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations over the next decade. This would be great news if we had enough skilled talent in the pipeline to fill the nearly 200,000 positions that will open each year to keep pace with industry demands. But that’s not the case.


According to research from FMI:

  • A huge talent gap exists. Over 90% of Engineering & Construction (E&C) firms are struggling to hire qualified workers.
  • A serious impact is expected. More than 50% of these firms anticipate the shortages will significantly harm their organizations.

While the engineering talent gap demands innovative approaches to recruitment and retention, it also offers a chance to rethink traditional practices.


Read on as we take a look at five actionable, attainable strategies that can help your organization both cope with the current shortage and build a resilient workforce for the future.


1. Enhance Your Recruitment Process

Streamline Hiring

Time is of the essence when it comes to securing top talent. Simplify and accelerate your hiring process so you don’t lose high-quality candidates to a lengthy or cumbersome procedure.


Start by reviewing each step of your recruitment process for redundancies and bottlenecks. For example, don’t ask candidates to repeat information readily available on their resumes or cover letters. Focus interview questions on digging deeper into skills, experience, and cultural fit.


Enhancing communication is equally important. Leaving candidates in the dark about their application status creates frustration and may lead them to pursue other opportunities. Make it a priority to keep candidates informed with regular updates about where they stand in the hiring process.


A transparent, efficient, and respectful hiring approach will not only improve the candidate experience but also boost your organization’s reputation in the competitive hiring market.


2. Broaden Your Talent Search

Geographical Expansion

Remember when hiring was limited to a 50-mile radius? Gone are the days of geographical restrictions. Consider remote or hybrid work arrangements to tap into a national—or even international—talent pool.


While not all engineering positions can be fully remote, many roles, such as project management and design, are well-suited to hybrid settings.


Expanding your search to different regions or countries and offering hybrid work options can attract a diverse array of candidates who are looking for flexibility in their roles.


Alternative Talent Pools

Broadening your horizons means more than just looking beyond your local area—it also means considering candidates who might not follow the traditional career paths but have the potential to excel.


For example, many veterans possess valuable skills directly applicable to civil engineering, such as project management, leadership, problem-solving, and experience with complex systems. Organizations like the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) are dedicated to connecting companies with qualified veterans seeking civilian careers.


Additionally, consider partnerships with organizations dedicated to training underrepresented groups in the tech industry. These collaborations can help you access a broader array of talent while also contributing to greater diversity and inclusion in your workplace.


Employer Branding

Your company’s reputation is as crucial as the products or services you offer. Strong employer branding is essential to attract and retain the best engineering talent.


Start by clearly communicating your company’s mission, values, and culture through every touchpoint of the recruitment process. Utilize your website, social media, and professional networks to showcase employee testimonials, behind-the-scenes glimpses of working at your company, and the career growth opportunities you provide.


Engage current employees as brand ambassadors to amplify your presence in the industry. They can share their experiences through blog posts, videos, social media content, which helps build trust with potential candidates.


Not to mention, a strong employer brand instills a sense of pride and loyalty among current staff, which is invaluable for long-term retention.


3. Invest in Training and Development

Upskill Existing Employees

At the current pace of technological advancement in engineering, continuous learning is essential. Create a culture of growth by offering regular training sessions, access to online courses, and opportunities to attend industry conferences.


Consider implementing a structured professional development plan that aligns with your company’s goals and the personal career ambitions of your employees.


Take Bosch for example. They offer employees access to a learning platform with online courses, personalized learning paths, and micro-learning opportunities. Additionally, Bosch encourages participation in industry conferences and provides financial support for relevant certifications.


By investing in your current team’s growth, you not only prepare them to meet the challenges of tomorrow but also transform them into the leaders who will drive your company forward.


Apprenticeships and Internships

Developing a robust internship program is another effective way to cultivate your future engineering talent pool. Consider partnering with educational institutions to tap into a pipeline of motivated students who are eager to start their careers.


While not without its critics, Tesla’s focus on internal and external talent development is noteworthy. Their Tesla START program is a unique alternative to traditional four-year engineering degrees. The 14-16-week program focuses on intensive training specifically designed for those with limited or no prior automotive experience. This approach breaks the mold by opening doors to talented individuals who might not have a traditional engineering background. By investing in training and offering a clear career path within Tesla service centers, the program incentivizes graduates to stay with the company.


These programs allow you to bring in young talent and train them in the specific skills and practices unique to your company. Apprentices and interns get the opportunity to learn on the job, applying their theoretical knowledge in a practical setting, which prepares them for full-time roles within your company or the industry at large.


4. Implement Flexible Hiring Models

Part-Time or Contract Roles

Offering part-time or contract positions is especially helpful when you need expertise for specific projects or during peak periods.


Contract roles, in particular, can be appealing to highly specialized professionals who prefer project-based work. They can focus intensely on specific challenges without long-term commitments, providing your projects with the expertise needed—without the full-time expense.


Plus, contracting can be ideal for attracting professionals who are balancing career with personal pursuits or responsibilities, such as continuing education, family, or even semi-retirement. Offering these roles can help you tap into a seasoned workforce that values flexibility over the demands of a full-time role.


5. Retain Talent

Career Pathing

If you want top talent to stick around for the long haul, providing your team members with a visible roadmap for their professional development within your company is a great place to start.


You’ll need to create structured opportunities for advancement that are both ambitious and attainable as well as tailored to individual skills, interests, and the needs of the company. Then, have open discussions with your employees about their career goals and how these align with your organization’s objectives.


Implement mentorship programs where less experienced engineers can learn from senior colleagues, not only about technical skills but also about navigating professional growth within the company.


GE, for example, is doing an exceptional job with career pathing. They offer current employees and recent graduates a variety of leadership and skills development programs to grow deeper in their roles or branch out into something new. These opportunities not only benefit employees by providing a clear path for advancement, but they also strengthen the company by fostering a culture of continuous learning and internal talent mobility.


Additionally, support cross-functional training that allows employees to explore different roles and departments within the organization, which can lead to more diverse experiences and increased job satisfaction.


Recognition and Rewards

Appreciation is a powerful motivator. Regularly acknowledging your employees’ hard work and achievements can significantly boost morale and commitment. The recognition can be as public as company-wide announcements and awards, or as personal as direct feedback in one-on-one meetings. We recommend a healthy balance of both!


Consider both monetary rewards, like bonuses and raises, and non-monetary rewards, such as additional time off, flexible working conditions, or professional development opportunities. Tailor these rewards to meet the desires and needs of your employees, showing that you value their hard work and dedication in a way that resonates with them personally.


Southwest Airlines, famous for its fun-loving culture, incorporates appreciation into everyday interactions. Through their SWAG (Southwest Airlines Gratitude) program, employees can use “SWAG points” (earned through peer-to-peer recognition) to redeem various rewards, including gift cards, travel opportunities, or even converting points to company stock. This program fosters a sense of community and allows employees to recognize and appreciate each other’s contributions in a unique way.


AEG is Your Strategic Ally in Engineering Recruitment

Navigating the engineer shortage demands strategic agility and expert insight. At AEG, we’re your strategic ally in this competitive landscape.


We understand the unique challenges of the engineering sector and are committed to your success, offering ongoing support to ensure your talent strategies are effective and sustainable.


With our deep industry knowledge and expansive talent network, we excel at accelerating your recruitment process to connect you with the highly skilled engineers you need.


Let’s build a robust, innovative workforce that’s ready to tackle today’s challenges and seize tomorrow’s opportunities.


Contact us today to see how we can tailor solutions to drive your engineering projects forward.