How Industrial OEMs and SIs can Overcome the Skills Gap

By 2025, there will be a shortage of skilled, train people available in the automation sector. Here's what you can do to prepare.

Have you tried to hire an experienced engineer recently?

It turns out that it’s hard to find and attract smart, experienced people in the automation space.

In fact, most OEMs and SIs are reporting that there is an increasing skills gap in the labor market — they can’t find engineers with skills and experience that matches their requirements.

The bad news is that this skills gap will continue to grow.

According to an analysis by Deloitte, by 2025 over 2.7 million baby boomers will retire, taking their knowledge and expertise out of the market.

These retirees will be replaced by new graduates, but not nearly enough — of the 3.4 million manufacturing jobs likely to be created, 2 million will remain unfilled.

In this article, I’ll describe the ways that industrial Original Equipment Manufacturers and System Integrators can minimize the effect of the skills gap on their businesses.

Making Engineers Effective

It might sound like an obvious question, but what makes an engineer effective? Why is an engineer with five years of experience so much more effective than a graduate?

In general, a more experienced engineer has further developed their technical skills, understands your processes better, and has a more developed toolset.

Therefore, to make an engineer effective, you have to develop relevant skills, reduce the need for understanding processes, and provide newcomers with the right toolset to do their jobs.

Training

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An engineer needs to have the right technical skills to do their job well.

For different projects, different technical skills are required.

It’s not possible to hire an engineer who has all of the technical skills that you require. It’s also not practical to train an engineer in every skill that they might possibly need from now until the end of time during onboarding.

Therefore, at KB Controls, we advocate for a just-in-time approach to training.

At the beginning of a project, you can assess the skill gaps that you have on your team and create training to fill those gaps.

Each training should be short and engaging. It should provide the information that someone needs to be effective and no more.

Each training is added to a catalog to create a company-wide training library.

This training library is accessible on-demand to engineers allowing them to learn what they need as they need it and also to build their knowledge during downtime.

Processes

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New engineers aren’t effective because they don’t know your process.

They don’t know what sequential steps they have to take to complete a project. They don’t know what inputs they should use for each step or what deliverables they should be creating.

The reason they don’t know this is because very few companies document their processes. Most of the information is trapped in the heads of a few experienced people and rarely shared openly or documented.

By mapping out your processes, defining responsibilities and, identifying deliverables, you can help engineers to operate effectively almost immediately. Since engineers know what to do, as well as how and when to do it, the amount of mistakes and unproductive time on a project is reduced.

Mapping out processes doesn’t only help engineers — it helps the organization to do. By creating a process map, you can see what opportunities you have for standardization and automation to make your business more competitive.

Tools

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Experienced engineers have a toolbox. On each project, they add more tools to their toolbox.

These tools can be pieces of re-usable software, document templates, or less tangible things like the knowledge of how an application was previously solved.

To make new engineers effective, you need to provide them with a toolbox from day one. This toolbox will usually contain document templates, a well-managed software library, and application guidelines for how to tackle common problems.

Conclusion

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Finding the right people for a technical job is difficult. It will become even more difficult as the skills gap in the automation sector continues to grow.

To mitigate the effects of the skills gap, you have to enable less experienced, less knowledgeable engineers to be effective in their roles.

You can do this by increasing their technical skills through just-in-time, micro-learning where they develop the technical skills that they need as they need it.

You can also make less experienced engineers more effective by making your process more transparent. By explaining exactly what has to be done, when, and how, a new engineer can be productive in his or her first weeks on a job.

Finally, you can help engineers to be productive by providing a toolbox that enables them to work more efficiently.

At KB Controls, we work with our clients to mitigate the effect of the skills gap.

If you are struggling with filling technical vacancies or improving the effectiveness of your team, then contact us today.

Our automation consultants will schedule a free consultation call to understand your needs and look at how to enable your engineers to be more effective through creating a training library, mapping out and defining processes, or creating a standardized toolbox.

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