It’s National Engineers Week in the U.S., an opportunity to celebrate engineers and educate students about the profession. For us, it’s a career that has opened many doors.
One of the things that troubles us the most when we think about the future of our industry is the global shortage of engineers echoed by reports like the Mercer 2012 Attraction and Retention Survey, which identifies R&D, scientific and engineering jobs as “hot jobs” in North America “due to skill shortages and/or demand .”
We think part of the problem is that students are not being exposed to engineering and don’t see it as a career path. For example, in the U.S. during the economic downturn, many of the traditional large manufacturing employers stopped hiring as many engineers as they did in the past.
The tide is now turning. At Novelis we are aggressively expanding our global footprint with $1.4 billion of active expansion projects to serve high-tech industries such as automotive, packaging, consumer electronics and architecture. One of the biggest challenges we face today is finding the proper technical resources to lead these projects and maintain them once commissioned.
We are actively working to increase the number of engineers in a three-stage process that allows us to 1) introduce more students to engineering 2) engage more students who have chosen engineering as a career path and 3) invest in the engineers who have joined our company.
Introduce. More must be done to reach students at an earlier age. Encouraging young students to enjoy STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is critical. Let’s face it, you can’t even hope for an engineering career without strong math skills. To advance these skills, Novelis has begun a partnership with FIRST Robotics by supporting teams and competitions in every region where we operate. We hope to share the wonder of math and science with young students and expose them to the wide possibilities of STEM related careers.
In addition to providing promising career paths, all global manufacturers need to help encourage the foundational skills of math and science in schools. And, we need to come up with a stronger marketing campaign for engineering. The coolest innovations in the world— from iPads to state-of-the-art buildings and racy sports cars— depend on engineers.
Engage. Some of the ways we are tackling this challenge are traditional methods such as building stronger relationships with universities like Georgia Tech through scholarship and internship programs. Around the globe we are actively investing in our university partners so we can build a pipeline of engineers that are aware of, and want to work for, Novelis.
Invest. To develop our entry level engineers, Novelis offers a two-year Engineering Development Program. The program allows recent engineering graduates to learn on the job and participate in five separate learning weeks over the course of the two years. The learning weeks give the young engineers the opportunity to gain knowledge about Novelis’s various businesses, the technical details associated with rolling and finishing aluminum, and most importantly the ability to interact with their engineering colleagues from other regions.
Another way we are investing in our engineers is by structuring a more defined career path for engineers at all levels where we define a path for people that aspire to be technical experts and another path for individuals that want to be senior leaders in technology. We believe by exposing engineers to all the possibilities they have within an organization will lead to retention and attraction of new talent.
What other ways can companies find the engineering talent they need? Please add your opinion in the comments section.
This blog post was updated on January 15, 2016.