The electronics industry is undergoing a major demographic shift as baby boomers retire and millennials make up a growing percentage of the workforce. For the past 20 years, software engineering was the dominant force that grabbed most of the available engineering talent, and that has left a major gap between the groups of older and younger engineers. The generational change brings both challenges and opportunities when it comes to recruiting and retaining the next generation of electronics engineering talent.
Electronics companies that invest in recruiting, training, and retaining young talent will be better positioned to navigate industry disruptions in the years ahead. This means supporting younger engineers with opportunities to grow their skills and branch into challenging new design areas. The companies that can get this right can gain a competitive edge and retain the best talent for years to come.
Recruiting Younger Electronics Engineering Talent
The electronics industry has recently struggled to attract younger workers, who often perceive careers in electronics as unexciting. The popularization of software careers in our culture and the ballooning of Silicon Valley salaries has not helped companies find and retain new talent, so the age distribution in some companies tends to skew older.
Today, there is a convergence between software and hardware fields that makes electronics design and engineering a much greater part of the focus in designing new products. The software problems in today’s hottest technologies, such as AI and commercial aerospace, can’t be solved without an associated hardware solution. Companies have an opportunity to highlight the impact new engineers can create and the massive challenges to overcome in their work.
Emphasize the Challenges
Millennials and Gen Z grew up with technology, but they tend to not be aware of the technical challenges related to hardware. The technological challenges being overcome with today’s products require a multidisciplinary approach that spans across electronics, software, and mechanical design. Companies should focus their messaging to highlight these aspects of the job and how they are related to everyday products that better people’s lives.
Promote Meaningful Work
Electronics engineers are the unsung heroes that shape how new products are designed, sourced, manufactured, and distributed efficiently and ethically. Younger generations want careers that make a positive impact, companies have an opportunity and responsibility to stress the tangible social and environmental impact their products can create. Companies should stress the larger societal challenges to new engineers and how their work can help create solutions.
Ongoing Learning and Growth
As engineering and design have become multidisciplinary, companies should reward skills growth with meaningful increases in responsibility, compensation, and opportunities to lead on complex projects. Companies should offer growth opportunities that are enabled through continuous learning and skill growth. This means companies need to offer courses, certifications, and conference access to help emerging leaders stay updated on the latest technologies and best design practices.
Retaining Young Talent Long-Term
Job-hopping has become common among younger workers, so it is important to focus on retaining young electronics engineering talent. Retention of talent is just as much of a challenge in the electronics industry as it is in other areas of technology, but the demographics give new engineers outsized opportunities to grow into positions of leadership.
Strategies to engage and retain emerging talent include:
Offer leadership opportunities - High-potential employees should be given opportunities to lead small teams and projects, even early on. This builds skills and shows them they can advance their careers internally.
Embrace flexibility - Millennials value work-life balance and flexibility. Allow remote work options, flexible scheduling, and promote a deliverable-based system of expectations. A flexible environment encourages retention.
Connect to purpose - Help younger engineers see how their work contributes to larger company goals and social/environmental missions. These workers are motivated when their jobs align with their values.
The electronics design and engineering landscape is undergoing a major generational shift. While challenging, this transition also offers opportunities for companies willing to evolve their talent strategies to attract, develop, and retain the next generation of leaders. With strategic investments in recruiting, training, and retention initiatives targeted to millennials and Gen Z, the electronics industry can continue to cultivate the talent needed to drive innovation and resilience.
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