Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Technical Leadership Gap: Are You Bridging It?

The “graying” of the current technical workforce has United States workforce planners concerned that there will be a gap in US managers with skills in science, technology, engineering and math. According to a study cited in Chemical Week, some 76 million Americans face retirement in the coming years but only 47 million technically trained graduates stand ready to enter the workforce.

Solving the problem by outsourcing R & D, engineering and manufacturing to other countries threatens the United States’ long term ability to drive innovation and economic growth. Plus this is not an unlimited skill pool either.

Moreover, industries like aerospace and energy have positions that cannot be outsourced because they require employees to have US security clearance. Some industrial sectors face similar issues. For example, manufacturers of some controlled chemical substances cannot transfer product knowledge to non-US citizens.

Some sectors like petrochemicals and nuclear power are already feeling the pinch in the United States. Engineers in these specialties are in high demand.

Here are four approaches that companies are taking to lure US workers to pursue technology-oriented careers and develop tomorrow’s workforce:

  • Bayer Corporation and other industrial companies sponsor education initiatives aimed at promoting science to students. Programs like Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense® (MSMS) program — an award-winning initiative that advances science literacy through hands-on, inquiry-based science learning, employee volunteerism and public education - is aimed at giving children a feeling for chemistry and boosting math and science skills.
  • Outline a clear career path: Whether you are hiring at entry or mid-level, being explicit about potential career path opportunities and management responsibility can be inspirational to a potential hire. It doesn’t hurt to get the word out that the lifetime earning potential for technically qualified individuals in science, technology, engineering and math exceeds those of non-technically qualified according to US Dept. of Labor statistics.
  • Be creative: Source talent from declining industries and loosen “industry only” restrictions. Notwithstanding industry woes, automotive managers have fantastic engineering training and respect for quality that could make them well-qualified candidates for other industries. Being flexible opens up hiring options.
  • Assess whether your outside recruiters cut the mustard. Build partnerships with your best recruiting firms by rewarding them with more business. Weed out the non-performers.

Salary Benchmarking: Chemical CEOs in 2007 -

THE LAST WORD: Nanotech Driving Investment, Hiring: Venture capital firms invested $702 million in nanotechnology start ups last year across 61 deals according to a recent study released by Lux Research. To date, IPO valuations of nano start-ups total $2.57 billion. Investments range across the advanced materials, electronics, energy, environment and healthcare sectors. Lux sees current opportunities for large corporations to roll up materials and platform technology companies that have already had their R&D and pilot-stage manufacturing paid for by VC firms. We find that nanotechnology innovation is creating demand for materials engineering leadership at all levels. Nanotech applications in electronics, power, surfaces, coatings, and filters are driving hiring demand in aerospace, automotive, electronics and IT.

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