Friday, March 16, 2018

Illinois needs to replace 5,000 engineers a year in the next 5 years?

Via the weekly dose of pain that is a Google Alert for the term "skills gap", this article from the Illinois News Network (emphasis mine):  
llinois manufacturers need about 27,000 workers a year, for the next five years, just to keep up with retirements. The only problem is, there aren't 30,000 workers with the skills to fill the jobs.  
"Manufacturers need 22,000 production workers and 5,000 engineers every year, for the next five years between now and 2027 just to cover retirements of the baby boomers," Jim Nelson of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association said. "So there are jobs available." 
Nelson said there's a need for truck drivers, welders, craftsmen, manufacturers, supervisors, and a whole lot of other workers.... 
...But not enough of the workers who are available in Illinois have the skills that employers need. The biggest reason for that, Nelson said, is that Illinois high schools are still focused on sending kids to college. 
Maybe Mr. Nelson is using a very broad definition of an engineer, but 5,000 a year? Really?

There are a couple of ways to look at this: first, does that number make sense from a generation perspective? The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the state of Illinois employs 90,510 people in the architecture and engineering occupations (which includes engineering technicians.) Does it make sense that they have to replace a quarter of this workforce in the next 5 years? (or the next ten?) I think that number seems at least a little bit inflated, or perhaps the Illinois manufacturing workforce is older than I understand. Could go one way or another, it seems.

Secondly, let's think about whether or not that is even possible to replace this number of engineers. The University of Illinois (a very fine engineering school) has 9145 undergraduates, which suggests that it graduates ~2300 engineers a year. Not enough for Mr. Nelson. There are, of course, other very fine engineering schools in the Land of Lincoln, but let's just reach over into the Crossroads of America and steal some Purdue engineering graduates. The undergraduate enrollment of the Purdue College of Engineering is 12,477 undergraduates, or ~3100 graduates a year.

So if every single engineering graduate of both Illinois and Purdue decide to turn down the temptations of Silicon Valley or the depredations of the coasts to stay in the Midwest, maaayyybbe Illinois manufacturing will be okay.

(looks like wages for engineers in Illinois will be going up? I hope?) 

8 comments:

  1. from what ive heard, Illinois is the #1 state that people are leaving. the combination of super high state taxes and corrupt politics from Chicago controlling the whole state and pushing people away

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    1. I left because there were no job opportunities. I suspect "There aren't enough workers," is the usual employer-shorthand for "Our wages are too low," and "We're not hiring entry level."

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  2. I suspect (being cynical and unknowledgeable) that they want to avoid the "having to train people" and "having to pay people more" parts of the labor cycle.

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  3. I live in Illinois and can say that there is a major reason why no one wants to move here unless you're in the Chicago area or work near a state line and live in the neighboring state. Property taxes are through the roof, state taxes were just increased an extra 2 % I believe, there are even taxes on groceries, depending on your county. It's a shame the state has to nickel and dime people since they cannot get their act together.

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    1. I presume that state needs the income to pay off health care/pension expenses for its state workers. Kind of like CA

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    2. Except they should have been paying them off all along, no? If the unions were powerful enough to get contracts with significant benefits, they were powerful enough to get significant raises instead, so presumably the state preferred the benefits to cash in hand because it was cheaper for them. The problem with retirement benefits is that it's too tempting for companies and governments to skip paying them in the short term (to lower the effective costs, so they can either lower or not raise taxes for governments, or cash the extra money out as profit for a business) and then hope they can either pawn the costs off on someone else or declare bankruptcy. It's kind of hard for me to have sympathy for their situation if that were the case.

      If you have high taxes, you have to pay higher wages to overcome the taxes, though that works for California and Boston as well. You could offer benefits if the tax brackets make paying people a lot costly for taxes.

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  4. San Francisco, NYC, Boston have some of the highest costs of living and don't have problems attracting talent. I don't think high property taxes would scare away anyone if the salary and benefits are generous.

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    1. I think by "talent" you mean "new talent." Once people start families, then things like home prices, property taxes, public schools, etc. suddenly become important. At that point, the places you listed don't look very appealing to people on the outside.

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