Newswise — There are plenty of job openings for EEs, computer and software engineers, and IT professionals across Europe, but recruiting people with the most in-demand skill sets continues to be a challenge for industry companies.
And it might not get much better any time soon. The European Commission (EC) says the demand for new information and communications technology (ICT) sector jobs is up to 120,000 a year in Europe, which EC Digital Single Market Chief Andrus Ansip says could lead to a shortage of more than 800,000 skilled ICT workers throughout the continent by 2020. “We still see big differences in skills levels between European Union (EU) countries,” says Ansip, “and different implementations of national skills programs designed to minimize Europe’s digital divide.”
Germany continues to have the most job openings for engineers in Europe. Despite a rising number of graduates, the Association of German Engineers (VDI) says Germany is still reliant on the migration of skilled workers to fill demographic gaps. “EEs are still in great demand,” says Ina Kayser, who manages labor market analysis and advises the VDI on engineering profession issues. The number of EE vacancies in Germany is about 13,000, which is about five percent higher than last year. “We did a scenario analysis on the future development of the labor market. Despite a recent temporary rise in the number of graduates, skill shortages are expected to continue to be a serious issue, especially in North Rhine Westphalia Bavaria, and Baden-Wuerttemberg.” There are also engineering job vacancies in the Hamburg and Stuttgart areas, as well as Berlin and Munich. Part of the problem, the VDI says, is that about 21 percent of engineers in Germany are older than 55 and are retiring before they can be replaced.
Skills for Digital Transformation, a study by the Technical University of Munich and SAP SE (headquartered in Walldorf, Germany), went so far as to suggest the lack of adequate digital skills poses a threat to established business models. University officials said the study stresses the need for cross-functional training of current executives and employees, as well as the recruitment of new qualified talent.
Demand is highest for IT professionals. According to Bitkom, which represents more than 2,500 German companies in the digital sector, there are about 43,000 slots open for IT specialists, an increase of about five percent over 2015. Bitkom says that 17,500 of the vacancies are in companies in the IT and telecommunications sector. About two-thirds (64 percent) of companies with vacancies have them for software development professionals. (Software engineers are considered IT professionals in Germany and those jobs are tracked by Bitkom, not the VDI.)
In its study, Labor Market Outlook 2016: Uncovering the Causes of Global Jobs Mismatch, Indeed, a global job site, found a significant mismatch in available jobs and skills training for software developers and engineers. “We found that Germany was lagging far behind in jobseeker interest in the IT/software sector, in spite of offering the highest concentration of these jobs in Europe,” says Indeed’s chief economist, Tata Sinclair. Germany ranks third in the volume of job searches coming from other EU countries, after the United Kingdom (UK) and France. Sinclair says that one of the problems in attracting foreign talent to Germany is language. A certain level of proficiency in the German language is often a precondition of working in the country. (Normally, the bigger the company, the more international business it does and the less proficiency in German is required.)
Siemens, one of several companies trying to pick up the slack in needed skills by forming partnerships with technical universities and developing programs to help train engineering candidates to fill their technical positions, has taken notice of the language issue. Twenty-four students from 12 European countries who graduated from Europeans@Siemens, a program focused on electronics and mechatronics, started their training with an intensive six-week course in German. They must write all of their examinations in German. The program requires that candidates spend two months at one of Siemens’ regional companies in their home countries to enable them to make contacts for starting their careers. All of the program’s graduates have job offers at Siemens in their home countries. “The pilot project has enormously expanded our international training activities,” says Janina Kugel, labor director and chief human resources officer of Siemens AG.
Rohde & Schwarz, a company which has been active in IT security for more than 20 years, has combined its IT and network security subsidiaries into Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity GmbH in response to its increasing involvement in this market. R&S enhanced its efforts in cybersecurity with the acquisitions of Adyton GmbH Gateprotect GmbH, Sirrix AG. As part of the consolidation, Rohde & Schwarz SIT GmbH will be reorganized. The Stuttgart office will focus on its core business of radio communications encryption, while end-to-end encryption and network security product groups will remain in Berlin. They will be integrated into the new cybersecurity operation, which will have a total of nearly 400 employees at six locations in Germany. Ammar Alkassar, CEO of the new R&S organization, says its existing cybersecurity expertise will be enhanced with “outside impetus,” which has been taken to mean that R&S has additional acquisitions in mind, and/or it will supplement its expertise in this area with additional technical personnel.
THE UK ELEVATES TECH
Industry growth and the increase in start-ups in the region have boosted hiring in some segments in the UK and made hiring there more competitive. According to data collected by CareerBuilder, the UK gained nearly 36,000 jobs for programmers and software development professionals from 2010 through 2015 (a jump of about 18 percent), and filled nearly 23,000 additional ICT-related positions in that same period (an increase of about 16 percent). The increase in the number of jobs during that period for EEs was just over 1,000—only about four percent.
Walczak also says employers are also looking for people with baseline skills, like writing, problem solving, research, planning, and project management.
CYBER SKILLS IN THE UK, SEMICONDUCTOR SKILLS IN IRELAND
Cyber security skills are in demand globally, but Barclay Simpson, a corporate governance recruitment consultancy, took a close look at the status of available cyber talent in the UK and discovered that while 68 percent of managers are finding it hard to find cyber security specialists, companies that already employ cyber professionals are looking to upskill their cyber security staffs. One problem, according to the study, is that some IT and cyber security professionals who were perfectly employable three to five years ago have been unable to grow their skills to meet the new challenges that now confront them.
Barclay and Simpson says job candidates with in-demand cyber skills are receiving multiple offers and counter offers from their current employers. But not everyone meets the demand for what the study calls “contemporary” in-demand skills, which the report identifies as e-commerce security, mobile app security, cloud security, and other security related to social media. Most of the competition to recruit cyber security talent, according to the study, is in regional UK locations such as the North West, Yorkshire, Thames Valley, and the Central Belt in Scotland.
Denmark’s military intelligence agency, the Defence Intelligence Service, has created a “hacker academy” to train IT specialists in cyber security and expects to hire its graduates.
UK-based Cambridge Consultants says it has outgrown its U.S. operation in Cambridge, Mass., moving into Boston where its headcount of 58 in February is expected to grow to at least 100 by the end of 2016. David Bradshaw, the company’s U.S. general manager, says much of the Boston facility will be staffed by UK-based engineers throughout the year. “We operate as one company,” says Bradshaw, who spent 10 years in the company’s UK operation before moving to Boston. “Last year, we introduced a program to further strengthen the ties between the two sites (moving people back and forth between the UK and Boston), and this has been extremely popular with the staff at all levels.” Along with software and electrical engineers, Bradshaw says CC is on the lookout for exceptional industrial designers, human factors engineers, program managers, and business developers.
Chip designer ARM Holdings has more than 200 openings for engineers in several different disciplines, including software and hardware engineering, applications engineering, design engineering, and R&D. Most of the new job slots are based in the UK, but ARM also has openings in France, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, and Norway.
Google is also adding several engineers to its London operation and it’s recruiting network engineers and technical program managers in Dublin, where its European headquarters are located. Google opportunities include a two to five-year career development program for new graduates and experienced technical professionals at its Dublin offices. Intel has also opened what it calls its IoT [Internet of Things] Ignition Lab in Co. Kildare, Ireland. Intel and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have also partnered in forming IoT Discovery Labs in France, Singapore, and the U.S. Nokia Growth Partners has created a new US $350 million fund for investment in IoT companies and says that Nokia will use the funds to define future business opportunities and “the technical underpinnings for the rapidly growing IoT market.” IBM also formed an IoT unit last year with headquarters in Munich which it plans to staff with 1,000 developers and researchers, but it’s not clear how many of these positions represent new job opportunities.
Analog Devices has a long list of job openings for engineers, mostly for U.S. locations, but it’s also recruiting specialists (design evaluation, senior mixed signal design, lead digital design, analog mixed IC design, and verification engineers) in Germany, Ireland, and Scotland. Philips also would like to fill several engineering slots in the U.S., but also has openings (mostly for software engineers) in Europe.
In Scotland, 44 university spin-offs were created in Edinburgh last year, now the largest start-up hub in the UK outside London. (Thirty-five Scottish technology companies attended the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.) Scotland also produced its first two “unicorns” in 2014/2015—technology companies with valuations in excess of $1 billion. “Thanks to the strength of the region’s higher education sector and business environment for start-ups, Scotland continues to product, nurture fast growing digital companies with true global potential,” says Neil Francis, director of international operations at Scottish Development International.
Microsemi Corp. (headquartered in Aliso Viejo, Calif.), which established its presence in Ireland in 1992 through the acquisition of a facility in Ennis, Co. Clare, has opened a new R&D laboratory and system integration facility to support its aviation product development in Ennis. The company, which makes semiconductor products, says it will continue to recruit engineers and other technical professionals in the area.
With smartphone growth slowing, Qualcomm slashed about 1,300 jobs at its San Diego headquarters and other locations last September as part of a restructuring program and suggested that other jobs might be cut in 2016. However, the company was recently recruiting at least 30 engineering slots in Europe, 25 of them in the UK.
Amazon Web Services, headquartered in London, is expanding its R&D centers across Europe, focusing on software development.
ON TO ITALY
Job prospects for engineers and other tech professionals have picked up in Italy in recent months with the announcement by Cisco Systems that it will commit $100 million to its operations in the country over the next three years. Cisco says it is taking a two-fold approach: increasing digital skills in the region and fostering Italy’s innovative technology startup community. Part of the plan calls for a closer collaboration with Italian universities.
Francesca Merella, Cisco Italy’s human resources manager, says the company is looking mainly for systems engineers, as well as sales personnel with a technical background. “Cisco looks for engineers coming from technical universities. Software skills are more requested because the company is changing and is focusing more on software, visualization technologies, and solutions. The way Cisco is organized, an Italian person can apply for a position open in another country and still be based in Italy.”
Apple also plans to open a center for developing apps in Naples. Apple says it will train up to 600 aspiring mobile app software developers in a program it expects t extend to other countries.
HP Labs also has several openings for engineers in Sant Cugat del Valle, Spain and Bristol, UK.
The European Space Agency is also looking for young engineers. It’s conducting regular job fairs at universities across Europe under its Young Graduate Trainee program. To be eligible for the program, potential trainees must be in the final year of a master’s degree at a university or have just graduated. The ESA usually makes about 80 job offers annually under the YGT program.
DIGITAL SKILLS AND THE EUROPEAN ECONOMY
Accenture Strategy, which studies the intersection of business and technology, suggests that concern about shortages of specific technical skills is very real, not only in Europe, but globally. In a new report, Digital Disruption: The Growth Multiplier, Accenture Strategy says that a little more than one-fifth (22 percent) of world output is linked to digital economy skills and capital, and it projects that optimizing the use of digital skills and technologies could generate $2 trillion of additional global economic output by 2020. The report measures the scale of digital economy in 11 major countries, six of them in Europe, and shows how digital economies are linked to skills and capital, which vary by country. Accenture Strategy lists Italy (along with Brazil, China, and Japan) as one of the countries with the greatest opportunity for improving its overall digital performance by “aggressively shifting the focus of its digital talent and technology from making efficiencies to creating entirely new business models. …This requires not just greater digital investments, but broader organizational and cultural transformation in order to yield the greatest returns,” says Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive, Accenture Strategy.
This article was written by Ron Schneiderman and first published in Newswise on March 30 2016.