27th September - Valencia.
The rise and rise of Embedded Engineering in the Nordic Region
Up until just before the pandemic, the demand for embedded engineers in Europe was practically insatiable. Fuelled by the rapid rise in the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the need for embedded developers exploded. Qualified candidates had their pick of jobs.
Key skills that embedded developers and engineers have are particularly sought-after by many OEMs and tech companies, including fluency in programming languages used to write an operating system, such as C: an understanding of hardware at the component level; and an ability to straddle software and hardware with ease.
In Scandinavia particularly, even without the downturn caused by COVID hiring freezes, furlough and general downturn, the demand for IoT devices continued to soar. With there being big investment in Automotive (Electric Cars), Renewables, Energy Storage and thriving entrepreneurial environment. A recent ILA Report has also stated that the Nordic start-up tech ecosystem, the “Nordic model”, is one of the most dynamic in the world, with the highest number of unicorns per capita. Consequently, foreign investors from across the globe - and increasingly also Japan - are looking for new opportunities in the Nordic region, which now attracts the highest level of foreign investment per capita. And Scandinavia consistently ranks at the top of a range of global indexes, including competitiveness, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Companies such as Skype, Spotify, Supercell and established brands such as Volvo, Ericsson and Nokia are testament to this innovative tech infrastructure buoyed by governmental incentives.
However the big worry is that there is a real danger of running out of the talented embedded system engineers required to design, test and build new electronics. And this is likely to provide problems in the years to come and predicted growth will stall.
The Demographic problem for Scandinavia
Iesha Thaper, from Claremont Consulting commenting on the Sweden tech environment, “The Swedish tech skills shortage is in many ways an issue of numbers. Like many of its European neighbours, Sweden has a rapidly aging population – by 2040 every fourth person there will be 65 or over. This, coupled with a low birth rate, means that there will simply not be a large enough working population to fulfil the nation’s talent needs.”
Based on analyses conducted by the Swedish PES that indicates the following occupations as shortage professions: Engineer, Master of engineering, electronics-telecommunication, Electrical engineer and Electrical technician, Electronics engineer and Electronics technician.
It is estimated shortages will occur due to a lack of technical competencies which explains the high demand for experienced employees. Bottleneck vacancies appear in high-skilled occupations, such as specific types of engineers and various occupations related to information technology. The Swedish PES predicts there will be even more labour shortages in five to ten years due to increased retirements.
Not just engineers, it is the Skills mismatch
The Scandinavian public sector provides a strong framework for the ecosystem, including efficient e-governance, a streamlined bureaucracy, plentiful opportunities for funding and other support, and a strong focus on Research and Development. They have one of the highest levels of R&D investment by GDP in Europe. Add all of this to a general population that eagerly adopts new technology.
Yet despite its appetite for new start-ups and innovations it is the inability to fill open tech positions in a reasonable amount of time at current wages and working conditions with employees with the desired digital skillset that is likely to hinder growth and is of increasing concern throughout Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.
Denmark is expected to be short of at least 19,000 engineers by 2030, with a "severe talent mismatch" in existing tech skills and actual demand being a major worry.
The Norwegian government estimates a shortage of at least 4,000 engineers in the field by 2030. And The Helsinki Times reported that Finnish employers were also struggling to find tech professionals, especially engineers. Despite the relatively high number of 4,000 unemployed engineers in the country, vacancies remain due to a skills mismatch.
At the heart of Scandinavia’s ability to pioneer its new technologies will be the ability to find the right embedded engineering skills to lead the innovative developments.
The problem is that there are just not enough Embedded Engineers of sufficient quality coming through on a local level with the right skills, fast enough. Learning skills and intensive training on the job is still a possibility, but the turnaround on some of these specialist skills requirements do not keep up with project deadlines or specifications.
The Flexible Approach to hiring Skilled Embedded Engineers
It is this tech skills mismatch particularly in sectors requiring Embedded Systems and Electronic Engineers where the shortage is most acute. In the face of the growing talent shortage, Nordic businesses are trying to find a way to hire and retain the right talent.
According to CIS, who are experts in contracting embedded engineer expertise for companies across Europe, and more specifically, Nordic region, have noticed that clients are solving the skill shortage problem by being flexible to accept either full remote working or partial remote working and as a result are successfully in getting the best candidates to work on their projects.
Their 20 year experience in the Nordic region is unsurpassed. During the past decade CIS has established a network of European based experts, mainly in the areas of firmware design, embedded development across a range of sectors who provide their services on a limited contract basis. Clients from countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are now actively contacting CIS to take advantage of the immediate availability and flexibility of these engineers who are coming from outside the Scandinavian and local markets.
They see the requirements of ‘immediate availability’ and ‘flexibility’ are key and that recent demand coming from the Scandinavian region has significantly increased as the availability on the local market in these countries is simply not sufficient to feed the industry.
Richard McCullagh, CEO of CIS explains, “Clients are continuously coming to us for urgent help for both on-site and remote working experts who are available on short notice. The consistent demand in almost all cases is that we have people who are ready to start working at short notice. In a lot of instances for remote working positions, the turn-around from interview to start date is 24 hours. For clients who absolutely need an engineer onsite, the lead time for relocation is typically 2 – 4 weeks for a European based freelance consultant. Comparing this to recruiting a permanent employee the process can sometimes take up to 6 months before the candidate is in place and in most cases the process of identifying the right candidate ends up being unsuccessful, causing massive frustration for project managers. For this reason, more and more Scandinavian client project managers are turning to external freelance contractors from outside their borders who are experts in their field and can pretty much start to produce on critical projects immediately.”
The flexible approach is certainly one answer in solving the engineering skill shortage issue. To actively push for solutions coming from outside Scandinavia is a big shift in trend that has started during the past year, and many companies are catching on, so much so the demand is continuing to increase each quarter and as Europe rebounds after the COVID pandemic, it will be expected to double in 2022.