Engineering jobs specialize, require more communication, collaboration
A shift towards engineering specialization has prompted increased communication needs and led to more “collaborative” jobs. Why? Imminent retirement of baby boomers, a shortage a graduate engineers, and the changing role of the workforce are reasons, according to Jim Gagnard, SmartSignal president and CEO.
A shift towards engineering specialization has prompted increased communication needs and led to more “collaborative” jobs. Why? Imminent retirement of baby boomers, a shortage a graduate engineers, and the changing role of the workforce are reasons, according to Jim Gagnard, SmartSignal president and CEO. He was among speakers at “New Ideas for Peak Performance,” SmartSignal’s recent Summit 2006 conference. Other issues discussed at the two-day event included an aging workforce, collaborative employees, energy supply and demand issues, and innovative technologies. The third annual running of the two-day event, held at Chicago’s Swissôtel last week, assembled some 250 executives and senior managers from many industries to exchange ideas and strategies.
“We are seeing a new kind of employee,” said Gagnard, “one who searches, monitors, coordinates, analyzes, and decides.” Collaborative employees interact with other employees, customers, and suppliers, and make complex decisions based on knowledge, judgment, experience, and instinct, he went on.
Gagnard said that technology must complement collaborative employee skills and that technology priorities must attract and support a collaborative workforce. “Leverage the strengths of your employees,” he challenged attendees, by promoting high quality interactions and by not only doing your best but doing what’s necessary.
Also at the summit, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) focused on energy security. Discussions cited energy as among the 10 biggest risks to the world’s economy. Economic consequences to energy markets include price, politics, and environment. Future influences include the power of markets, the often-underestimated and unanticipated power of technology, and relentless power of geopolitics. Energy growth in China will be huge compared to the United States, with greater concerns about energy’s role in supporting growth. Iraq, Nigeria, and Venezuela are among regions where problems have led to reductions in oil production, continuing energy insecurity, and supply anxiety.
CERA noted that technology will help; 10% of U.S. gasoline will come from ethanol by 2009; geo-thermal energy sources and wind power are now serious issues. Those in the U.S. generally don’t believe we are running out of oil, discussions noted; some foresee an expanding supply and a 20 to 25% increase in capacity in the foreseeable future.
Looking at energy in China, Dr. Jun Zha, chief technology officer, energy IT group, FibrLink, the communication and infrastructure subsidiary of State Grid Corp. of China, reminded that the country is “big!” To achieve a 10% annual GDP growth, he said, China needs to add 50,000 MW of generation capacity a year; about one new 1,000 MW plant a week.
Dr. Jun said that power blackouts are a daily experience in many parts of China and that in summer, some factories shut down to reduce demand, while government buildings set air conditioning temperatures to 26 °C (nearly 79 °F) to conserve. There is lots of pressure on the Chinese government to do something, he admits. Thirteen new power plants, he said, smiling, are being built without all their approvals because there is such a need. “We are not afraid of trying new things,” he adds. “We are afraid of not trying new things.”
Heads up: Engineering job requirements
Imminent retirement of baby boomers, a shortage a graduate engineers, and other workforce role changes are changing the requirements for engineering jobs. Expect more:
Collaboration with other employees, customers, and suppliers;
Searching, monitoring, coordinating, analyzing; and
Complex decisions based on knowledge, judgment, experience, and instinct.
Source: Control Engineering with information from SmartSignal