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Electronic Engineering - Project Managers doing more HR than R&D?

30th July - Valencia.

We have all been hearing about the infamous ‘skills gap’ within electronics engineering for many years now.

It is tough to maintain the right level of expertise in an organisation to adequately staff new projects as the project portfolio grows. Shortage of specialist skills has therefore become the number one concern amongst project managers within the Embedded Systems and Semiconductor R&D industry.

More and more time is therefore being wasted solving complex staffing issues, rather than being invested in overcoming complex technical challenges, to gain competitive advantage.

Project Managers paint ‘bleak picture’ on skill shortages

According to a recent survey conducted by CIS Electronic Engineering among their current R&D Project Managers, almost 80% said they were struggling to find the right engineers with the right skills and experience necessary to successfully deliver their projects. They also reported that it is getting more difficult to retain good engineers (63%) as the demand for specialist skills approaches breaking point. They reported having to work longer hours to solve a range of secondary issues resulting from the lack of adequate skills and experience available within their project teams.

The general overview of project managers seems to paint a pretty bleak picture in the short to medium term, with the majority of respondents indicating that they expect things to get a lot worse before they get better. The industry has taken it into their own hands to partner with universities, local governments, private training institutions and many other stakeholders, to find solutions for the future, however “these programs take time which we just don’t have.” according to one.

Equally the increasing costs of recruitment (78%) and above-average salary inflation (68%) weighs heavily on Project Managers and over 70% experienced staffing related overspending.

CIS’s CEO, John Ryan, commented, “From this survey it is obvious that recruiting for the highest quality skill levels is a common problem.  Many are suffering delays to project delivery as a result of project staffing issues (62%) and even some (27%) have been forced to delay, or even abandon projects altogether through skills shortage. 

“We are not surprised to see talent issues taking over as the number one concern for project managers,” John explains, “however we were very surprised with the level of consistency and the sheer extent of the problems, especially in Northern Europe.”

“Managers are complaining of spending more time recruiting and dealing with talent related issues than ever before. Good engineers are hard to find, hard to secure and hard to hold onto these days. Even the contract market is starting to dry up, so there really aren’t a lot of alternatives out there, other than considering offshoring or delaying the start of new projects.”

“There is more than enough talent to go round!”

“We have been advising our customers on these issues for years and have been working on finding new innovative solutions in order to help our customers avoid much of this pain. You see the problem isn’t that there’s not enough great talent to go around, it’s more a case of where the talent is located. There is plenty of great engineering talent available across the globe, as long as you don’t need these engineers on-site in your facilities. Because the demand is less intense in other areas of the world, it is much easier to find top qualified engineering skills. This can be provided at great value for money, but ‘only if’, you can organise your projects in a way that can allow for remote working, as with our globalXperts product.”

“For those who require at least some portion of the work to be done on-site at their facilities, we have developed our euroXperts solution where we focus on talent available from many of the less competitive talent markets within the EU Region, in order to facility easy site visits, as may be required. This also offers us the opportunity to find top European based talent for our customers at great value for money.”

Rethinking talent base strategy to remain competitive

In summarising, John states, “The Electronics Engineering market is experiencing tremendous growth and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, as long as the industry is able to find and develop the talent required. These are very exciting times, but not without some serious talent related challenges. Companies are going to have to rethink their whole talent based strategy in order to remain competitive.”

“We are about to see some major structural changes in the way companies manage their projects in the coming years. Finding the right balance between internal staffing, contracting, remote working, outsource workforce and complete offshoring is going to be the decisive factor in determining which companies excel and which ones get left behind.“