Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

The state of Michigan, and Detroit for that matter, may have the highest number of engineers per capita of any state or region in the country. In fact, Southeast Michigan’s location quotient for engineers is 2.09. This means that there is nearly TWICE the concentration of engineers here than on average in the United States.

But, being “flush” with engineers does not mean that our businesses are always able to find the talent they need. There are currently over 80,000 workers in Southeast Michigan employed in engineering-related occupations. Unfortunately, this is not enough. In 2013, there were more than 24,000 unique job postings for engineering-related occupations. According to data from Career Builder, the region only has about 3,000 individuals actively looking for work in an engineering profession in recent months. This seems like a huge gap and many have called to colleges and universities to increase enrollments in their engineering programs to help us fill the engineering talent gap.

If it were only so simple. Let’s dive deeper into the data and see what we are working with.

Of the 24,099 job postings in 2013 for engineers and engineering-related positions about 82 percent indicate the educational attainment level required for the position and almost 55 percent specify the years of experience necessary for the position. Would increasing engineering program enrollment help fill the engineering gap in the next few years?

Maybe, a little.

Of the approximately 24,000 job postings in 2013 for engineers and engineering-related positions, 65 percent (15,648) require at least a Bachelor’s degree. This means that more than half of our engineers need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree. Well, that doesn’t seem too bad. We can easily increase enrollments in engineering programs and help fill some of that gap over the next several years. But, wait, we should check necessary experience too. On this front we have a different story. About 44 percent of postings require either 1 to 4 years or 4 to 7 years of experience (5,410 and 5,299 respectively). An additional 8 percent (2,001) require more than 7 years of experience.

This information changes the story quite a bit. If more than half of the engineering job postings indicate that EXPERIENCE is necessary for employment, then we cannot only rely on our higher education system to fill the talent gap.

Our colleges and universities produce high quality engineers and are expanding their programs. Higher education institutions in Michigan have continuously increased the number of degrees awarded in engineering. Between 2010 and 2012 Michigan’s public and private higher education institutions awarded 17,135 degrees in engineering fields. Nearly 6,000 of these degrees were awarded in 2012, the most degrees in the field for Michigan’s institutions to-date. These institutions will continue to grow their programs if there is demand from students and from industry. They will help create the talent pipeline for the future but they cannot be the only source of engineering talent that Southeast Michigan employers rely on.

Southeast Michigan’s employers need engineers. All kids of engineers with diverse experience and training. Our higher education system is doing a great job at producing the engineering talent of the future, but we need more experienced engineers NOW.

Engineers, Southeast Michigan wants YOU to come work here.

This blog was compiled with research and content from Colby Specer-Cesaro, Research Director, Workforce Intelligence Network.

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