Who’s going to take your job?

Older workers are retiring, and there are too few junior team members to take their places.
By Amara Rozgus August 28, 2018

According to a recent Consulting-Specifying Engineer research study, 30% of the study respondents are older than 65. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 17% are 40 or younger.

A U.S. Department of Labor report from February 2017 looked at more than 40,000 job applicants across all industries. The study concluded that the aging of U.S. workers, along with fewer workers 65 and older compared with that of their younger counterparts (ages 25 to 64), is leading to a rise in the dependency ratio—the ratio of nonworkers to workers in the U.S. population. In short, fewer workers will be available to support the increasing number of nonworkers. 

This matches with the data from the research we conducted, too—older engineers are retiring, and there just aren’t enough people to take their place. The numbers are skewed in favor of older engineers working longer and staying in the profession well past the age of 65. It could be that these seasoned employees need to work for financial reasons, or that they simply love their jobs and cannot think of letting go. Or maybe their companies just don’t know who will take their jobs.

But the reality is stark: We’re about to hit a wall of too few qualified people for too many jobs. In that same proprietary Consulting-Specifying Engineer study, 54% have been in their current industry 30 or more years. And 61% work 41 hours per week or more; the majority work 41 to 45 hours per week, with 28% responding that they spend these hours on the job.

Challenges for the respondents and their firms followed some of these same patterns. Lack of a skilled workforce and challenges hiring clocked in at 46%. The two items that ranked higher were keeping up with codes, standards, and regulations (61%, always the No. 1 response) and keeping up with or adapting to new technologies (60%).

On a positive note, the 2018 MEP Giants are employing more engineers than last year. And all types of staff/job titles jumped by more than 28,000 people among these top 100 firms.

What does all this mean? Junior team members at your firms need to step it up. High schools and colleges need to encourage more students to become engineers. We all need to keep a close eye on the future of engineering.