Using technology to improve automation recruiting, retention

Hiring tips: Recruiting engineering talent is difficult. These tips can help recruit, hire, and retain engineering talent.


Convergence of newer automation technologies can attract engineering talent: Beckhoff Automation encourages the convergence of automation and computer science/IT technologies, a PC-based control development called eXtended Automation. New eXtended Automation tools and connected solutions include the availability of object-oriented extensions of IEC 61131-3 for programming, increased use of C/C++ in automation, and integration of Matlab and Simulink from MathWorks. Courtesy: Beckhoff AutomationPerhaps the greatest challenge in recruiting, hiring, and retaining engineering personnel is attracting qualified talent from a limited pool of candidates. Business leaders, recruiters, and hiring managers in the fields of manufacturing and automation must help ensure that the industry is promoting our brand of engineering so prospective talent see that careers in automation and manufacturing technology are rewarding and exciting. 

Students should be introduced to industrial technology at an early age to help shape positive perceptions of the industry. For example, opening in 2014, the new Alexandria High School in Alexandria, Minn., will house a state-of-the-art technology and engineering lab that ramps up its science and technology curriculum and fosters students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Investing in a manufacturing and technology-focused curriculum in high schools will increase students’ opportunities to create education and career paths in industrial technology.

Automation hiring

Automation vendors should donate equipment and money to technical schools and programs, as well as time and resources to create a meaningful presence that nurtures students’ learning and success in and out of the classroom. Engineering internships are another great way to connect students’ learning in the classroom to meaningful work in an environment that drives their purpose and leads to an improved college experience. Of course, this also puts the next generation of industrial engineers in a much better position to succeed in the job market.

When hiring engineering talent, favor applicants who are early adopters of technology. Doing so creates engineering teams with little fear of innovative technologies. Be mindful of personalities and how specific technical skill sets can build a stronger pool of diverse talent. 

It’s no secret that after talent has been hired, retaining that talent is essential to the success of a company. Losing an employee too soon after investing in recruiting, hiring, and training is a hidden cost associated with heavy turnover. Keeping engineering employees challenged on the job engages them in their work while supporting continuing education and training. New industrial manufacturing products and evolving technologies create an environment for exciting challenges and meaningful work that create a sense of pride in engineering employees. 

Convergence helps

For some automation companies, this means pushing the convergence of automation and computer science and information technology (IT) technologies, and PC-based controls. New automation tools and connected solutions include the availability of object-oriented extensions of IEC 61131-3 programming languages, increased use of C/C++ in automation, simulation software integration, and other capabilities. These apply directly to forward-looking visions of manufacturing technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0.

It’s widely reported that engineering talent is limited. The key then is to ask why. Automation vendors, machine builders, end users, and manufacturers need qualified engineering talent to succeed. To address this challenge, the industrial engineering community must work harder to introduce young students to emerging technologies, which will create engineering candidates with the most applicable set of knowledge and skills. Devoting more time and resources to involving youth in engineering will deliver stronger talent among future candidates and greater retention. 

- Nathan Eisel is technical support manager, Beckhoff Automation. Edited by Mark T. Hoske and Jordan Schultz, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer,

This article was a Control Engineering Digital Edition Exclusive, January 2014.


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