Chad Jackson

The Best Domestic Talent Pool for Engineering?

August 30, 2011

It seems like finding the right engineering talent for your organization is never easy. There’s the STEM shortfall issue where we aren’t graduating enough engineers to fill the roles needed domestically. And even with a number of engineering roles available, organizations, as one article from EETimes suggests, are getting more picky about hiring the right …

The Best Domestic Talent Pool for Engineering? Read More »

The Best Domestic Talent Pool for Engineering?

It seems like finding the right engineering talent for your organization is never easy. There’s the STEM shortfall issue where we aren’t graduating enough engineers to fill the roles needed domestically. And even with a number of engineering roles available, organizations, as one article from EETimes suggests, are getting more picky about hiring the right engineers. Want proof? Engineer unemployment rates have spiked according to an article by NetworkWorld.

If the baby boomers do retire in waves and suddenly there aren’t enough engineering graduates, then they need to find replacements from the workforce quickly. And even if you are meticulously picky, the best way to do that is to play a volume game. That means you need a good pool of engineering talent.

Where is Waldo… I mean… Where Are The Engineers?

So where are the most engineers? Great question. I actually ran across that type of information when I was looking for more specific unemployment numbers. But before we dive into the statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses something called a location quotient to describe the intensity or density of a specific role’s employment in a geographic area. Here’s their definition.

The location quotient is the ratio of the area concentration of occupational employment to the national average concentration. A location quotient greater than one indicates the occupation has a higher share of employment than average, and a location quotient less than one indicates the occupation is less prevalent in the area than average.

To take a look at the statistics yourself, visit the following links:

Mechanical Engineers

Perform engineering duties in planning and designing tools, engines, machines, and other mechanically functioning equipment. Oversee installation, operation, maintenance, and repair of equipment such as centralized heat, gas, water, and steam systems.

Obviously this definition isn’t as narrow as we would like it to be in that it includes some AEC types of roles, which can vary dramatically from the ME jobs related to discrete products. But regardless it can give us some idea as to the location of these roles. And where are they at? Look at the table and map below.

Looking at the table, there aren’t too many surprises. Obviously Michigan (Auto industry) and Houston (Oil industry) come in very high. But looking at the map shocked me. The density around Michigan, Cleveland and Buffalo is incredibly high.

Electrical Engineers

Research, design, develop, test, or supervise the manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment, components, or systems for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use. Excludes “Computer Hardware Engineers” (17-2061).

This definition is also plagued by the inclusion of electrical engineers from the AEC industry. But at least hardware engineers from the computer industry are excluded. At least that gives us a little bit clearer picture of what is going on with electrical engineers for discrete products.

Looking at this same information for electrical engineers isn’t terribly surprising either. California, Boston, New York and Washington all have high densities. But I was a little surprised by Minneapolis, Phoenix and Houston. What industries are clustered there?

Embedded Software Developers

Research, design, develop, and test operating systems-level software, compilers, and network distribution software for medical, industrial, military, communications, aerospace, business, scientific, and general computing applications. Set operational specifications and formulate and analyze software requirements. May design embedded systems software. Apply principles and techniques of computer science, engineering, and mathematical analysis.

I don’t think the description perfectly matches the development of embedded software for discrete products, but this is the closest definition I could find on the site. Here’s the density of these roles across the US.

When it comes to the relative ‘density’ of employment for embedded software developers, it’s no surprise that California, Massachusetts, Seattle (Microsoft?) and New York (IBM?) are some of the top locations. But I was a bit surprised by Washington DC (federal jobs?), Chicago, Dallas (Lockheed?) and Atlanta.

What is the Best US Location for Technical Center?

When it comes to thinking about where your R&D center (engineering office, technical center or whatever it is called) should be located, you want to make sure that you have a local pool of engineering talent to draw from. Given the prevalence of mechatronic products today, that means you’ll need mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and embedded software developers. Most organizations would prefer to have those engineers co-located too. So given all of that, what are in the US provides the best talent pool across engineering disciplines?

Looking across the numbers in this post, there are actually some consistent locations that keep popping up. Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago and San Jose are in the top ten for all three engineering disciplines. Obviously there are many other considerations to take into account, but from an engineering talent pool perspective, that rounds it out.

Now to really get a good picture of where the best pools of engineering talent are at, much more analysis would need to be done that the little work that has been done here. Nonetheless, it makes for an interesting picture and topic for discussion.

Conclusions and Questions

There are actually a few major metropolitan areas where engineers from all three disciplines are concentrated. These can be good engineering talent pools to draw from or place a technical center. Because when the times comes when you really need new engineers, it needs to happen fast. But be advised; if you are making a decision such as this, do more analysis on these metropolitan and geographic areas in terms of concentration of engineering talent pools.

Got any thoughts? Comment and let us know!

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

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