Where does engineering employment stand?
The 2022 MEP Giants mirror the economy — too few skilled engineers are available
The 2022 MEP Giants firms, highlighted on page 7, are facing a rough job outlook, just like many other industries.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports have read like a stock ticker on a wild ride. Unemployment has dropped, consumer prices have gone up and the stock market has jumped all over the place. Some industries have fared very well during COVID-19 and beyond, such as delivery services, grocery and liquor stores and a wide array of health services.
On the engineering side, the job market is moving forward rapidly. However, there are still challenges employers must overcome such as:
- Hybrid work schedules.
- A shortage of engineers and skilled workers.
- Acceleration of salaries.
- Backlog of work.
The backlog of work is a daunting one for many firms. An engineer in Texas told me he has never worked so many hours in his life, and he cannot seem to catch up. Another in Oregon indicated he’s not only having trouble hiring in the U.S., he’s also struggling to find experts in foreign markets. Over the past couple years, engineers have reached out to me with a request to help them find people to fill open positions. This is coming from mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineers, so it’s not an isolated market sector.
The biggest corporate challenge during this MEP Giants reporting period was COVID-19 concerns and issues, with 24% of firms indicating it was the largest. The major ways in which firms were affected throughout COVID were:
- Backlog of work: 47%.
- Additional new hires: 46%, which is a dramatic increase from 30%.
- Temporary layoffs: 12%, a decrease from 29%.
The BLS projects that through 2030, employment in architecture and engineering occupations is projected to grow 6% (average). About 146,000 new jobs are projected to be added. Most of the job growth is in the engineer field, as services will be in demand in various areas such as rebuilding of infrastructure, renewable energy, oil and gas extraction and robotics. BLS indicates the loss of engineers is mostly due to retirement attrition.
Are enough people pursuing building engineering? Only time will tell if firms can fill the backlog of work and bring on new team members.