Major Engineering & Manufacturing Trends Heading into 2020
It’s difficult to begin any sort of reporting on trends in the engineering industry without first mentioning the stark talent shortage facing many employers. 2019 was yet another year where open engineering jobs vastly outnumbered available, job-seeking candidates. Whether it’s due to a dissipating interest in STEM-related fields among younger generations or a steadily retiring workforce, the fact remains: employers consistently rank the talent shortage as a top priority as demand for engineering and related technical roles rages on into 2020.
Professional services network giant Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute recently collaborated for a study, reporting that nearly 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled from now until 2028—only 2.2 million of which are expected to be filled. The data also predicts something very similar in the engineering sector. Deloitte also reports that 82% of industry executives cite a shortage of qualified technical candidates, and, when broken into which specific role companies rank as most difficult to fill, it shakes out like this:
- Electrical engineering roles (60%)
- Computer sciences/software engineering roles (35%)
- Mechanical engineering roles (35%)
- Computer systems/engineering roles (30%)
- Chemical engineering roles (30%)
Below, we’ll touch on a few of the more prominent engineering trends heading into 2020 and a few of the more in-demand roles.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
This could top a “trends list” for practically every industry, currently. AI and machine learning are one of the most exciting and impactful technological developments in history, and they’re busy at work finding their way to affect and assert influence over a myriad of business processes regardless of niche or sector.
Much of the hysteria surrounding early forrays into AI centered around fears that the technology would render humans obsolete, but so far that hasn’t been the case for engineers. In fact, AI and machine learning have created entirely new, fruitful career veins as well as helping to maintain and assist current positions.
According to a report from Indeed, no other job ranked higher in demand or higher base salary in 2019 than machine learning engineers. Heading into 2020, this trend is only expected to continue as the technology becomes more advanced and more broadly adopted.
Associated role: Machine Learning Engineer, 344% growth over the last three years, $146,085 average salary.
Robotics and Automation
Closely related to the emerging technologies listed above, the demand for automation across nearly all industries correlates directly to the steady increase of automation and robotics engineers. Robotic systems have come a long way in the past few years, and the complexity of the processes they’re capable of performing has skyrocketed.
Far more than just being applicable in the industrial space, robots are seeing considerable expansion into a variety of roles such as medical assistants, autonomous machines, companion bots, search and rescue assistance, entertainment and more. Collaborative robots (or cobots) work alongside their human counterparts at an ever-increasing rate, and just 2021, the collaborative-robot market is expected to grow by about $2 billion, or 150,000 units.
Associated role: Robotics Engineer, $87,370 average salary
Women in Engineering
Much of the aforementioned talent shortages affecting the engineering and manufacturing industry can also be attributed to a lack of women working in the field. Despite making up about half of the available workforce overall, earning more than half of all associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, and holding more than half of all US managerial positions, women only constitute 24% of STEM occupations and less than 30% of the manufacturing workforce.
There is some helpful data, though, to suggest that notable progress has been made as 58% of women said they observed positive changes in their industry’s attitude towards female professional employers over the last five years, according to a study from Deloitte. Employers will continue to have to make strides in addressing potential gender barriers in the field and find new, impactful ways to empathize with and encourage more women to enter the field.
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