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There’s an Engineering skills shortage. Here’s one way to solve it.

It might not be news to some, but the current shortage in engineering skills is widening. While there have been many reports on this topic, I haven’t seen one that provides an adequate solution to the ever growing problem.

So what’s the answer, introduce more science and mathematics learning at an early stage? This might be easier said than done, as we are also facing a huge shortage of specialist maths and science teachers. Independent sources attribute a range of factors, including the failure to attract new teachers (particularly men) to the profession, imminent retirements and poor retention rates.

Whether it’s teachers or engineers, recruiting highly skilled migrants in Australia is costly.

One option that has worked for me is re-employing retired engineers into positions where they can add significant value.

Recently I organised a successful meeting for a candidate who had left the workforce with a company that had a short to medium-term contract opportunity.

The mutual benefits were clear: the company hired a highly qualified candidate (an engineer with over 40 years of experience in the Civil/Structural Engineering field) at short notice who could resolve their issues within the timeframe; the candidate enjoyed the flexibility of working on a stimulating project without a long-term commitment.

Employing professionals returning to the workforce has the following benefits for your organisation:

  • Fill short-term roles with an experienced candidate quickly
  • Retirees are more likely to consider a short-term opportunity than a candidate who is ultimately seeking permanent full-time work
  • Older employees can pass on valuable sector knowledge and transfer sought after skills to less experienced employees
  • 40 years + in the workforce brings with it well-established industry networks, and can provide introductions and mentoring opportunities for future leaders
  • Depending on skillsets and recent technical knowledge, minimal training or upskilling is typically required

Returning to the workforce also has benefits for retired and semi-retired candidates:

  • Feeling valued through their work by continuing to contribute to innovation, benefit society, and be involved in the business or the broader community Keeping your mind active, which could be beneficial to longevity[1]
  • Financial benefit

Overall, hiring older professionals in any field helps break down the stigma of ageism and reminds people that age should not be a barrier to work performance. In areas such as engineering, where chronic skills shortages have been identified, it makes perfect sense to reemploy when hiring for project-based roles and short to medium-term opportunities in particular. I’d like to see more employers jump on board and give it a go.

Have you employed a retired professional or do you know someone who has recently returned to the workforce after retirement? What was the experience like for both parties?

 

[1] There have been a number of studies to support this. In 2010 paper by economist Susann Rohwedder of RAND and Robert Willis of the University of Michigan (both were at Age Boom Academy). Looking at data from the U.S., England and 11 European countries, they concluded that retirement had a significant negative impact on the cognitive ability of people in their early 60s. They speculate that retirement can lead to a less stimulating daily environment. The researchers also wonder if people nearing retirement are less mentally engaged in their jobs (source Chris Farrell, Next Avenue Contributor).

 

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Nobody likes a pouting recruiter

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”

– Dale Carnegie

Once, early in my career, I accepted a new role despite my misgivings about the position. The recruiter talked me into it. Female engineers were quite a rare find in the late 90s and recruiters were constantly approaching me with engineering opportunities. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t stay in the position for long and in hindsight, I should’ve backed my instincts and walked away from the opportunity.

The ‘hard sell’ is rarely effective in the long term (particularly within an executive search context). I’ve seen it at work in business, as well as that personal experience working as an engineer. I don’t blame the recruiter for the outcome by the way – it was my choice to take the job against my better judgement, but the experience has shaped my approach to recruiting as an executive search consultant.

As a hiring manager, you may have observed that candidates who were subjected to a hard sell, more often than not, withdraw at some stage of the recruitment process. They’ll find an excuse to pull out, accept a counter-offer or won’t be a long-term hire if they do join the company. It’s not a great result for anyone: HR, the hiring manager, the recruiter or the candidate – not to mention the significant cost to the business in beginning the whole process again. Ethical and professional recruiters seek to add value to their clients on a long-term basis and are not simply seeking short-term commercial gain.

Passive candidates, who form a major part of the executive search process, may express a little hesitation and reluctance on first approach. This is completely normal and does not necessarily indicate a lack of interest in discussing the role further. However, there’s a big difference between informing a candidate about an opportunity and delivering a sales pitch.

My approach includes fostering dialogue with a prospective candidate and providing them with as much information as possible on the role. Once it is established that their skills, culture fit, remuneration and career goals are a good match, I encourage them to participate in a discussion with my client, as position descriptions are no substitute for a face-to-face meeting and the insights that are obtained through that discussion.

Should the candidate then decide that the opportunity is not one they wish to pursue, I respect their decision, thank them for considering the role and do not press the matter further. This approach has allowed me to forge trusting and long term relationships with my candidates; they understand that I will respect their views, will listen and am not purely driven by commercial considerations. Similarly, my clients have confidence that I’m representing them in the market in a professional way and respecting all candidates throughout the process.

Personally, I still suffer from the inevitable disappointment when an ideal candidate decides not to proceed with a role. It’s particularly hard if I feel that the opportunity meets their expressed goals and would provide them with a chance to further grow and develop professionally. However, nobody likes a pouting recruiter and it’s futile – not to mention unprofessional – to let that shape your behaviour or treatment of the candidate.

It’s important to remember that there are usually other factors involved that may be guiding a candidate’s decision (which they may not feel comfortable disclosing), and it’s not possible to address every contingency. In fact some of these individuals have returned to me in later years, when I have had the pleasure of placing them in their next role, whilst others have engaged me as a consultant.

It’s risky changing jobs. Candidates are acutely aware of the need to perform in the role within a new organisation and team, long after an executive search consultant has moved on to their next assignment. So forget the hard sell and take my advice: Behaving professionally, respectfully, ethically and with complete transparency always yields positive results in the long term.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work