10 hardest jobs to fill

Make Pt0976
This list is from April, but still likely accurate…

Hands-on jobs like these are where some of the the worst U.S. talent shortages exist, according to Manpower Inc., which recently surveyed more than 42,500 employers worldwide. In a weakened job market, the overall percentage of U.S. employers struggling to find talented workers dropped by nearly half to 22% from 2007.

But companies are wrestling with how to fill the ranks of technical and trade careers–particularly when it comes to enticing young professionals as baby boomers transition out of the work force. Another problem: As people live longer, flattening or declining birth rates mean there aren’t enough people to work and sustain the retired.

Here’s the full top 10 Most Wanted:
1. Engineers
2. Machinists/Machine Operators
3. Skilled Manual Trades
4. Technicians
5. Sales Representatives
6. Accounting & Finance Staff
7. Mechanics
8. Laborers
9. IT Staff
10. Production Operators

Makers, what do you think? If you’re trapped in a cubicle, it might be a good time to consider some welding classes / certifications or who knows what else if you like working with your hands, the market seems to be demanding it.

38 thoughts on “10 hardest jobs to fill

  1. badburt says:

    And you know why they can’t fill these jobs? Because most of them pay jack compared to what pen pushers and desk jockeys get paid. Skill and expertise seems to mean little these days and people who actually make things are treated like lepers. Thanks to shows like Mythbusters and web sites like Make that may well change in the future though.

  2. Will says:

    I have to say, as an engineering student about to graduate and trying to find a job, nobody is bloody hiring. Sure, the big huge companies may have like 1-2 more graduate engineering positions available then last year, but that doesn’t make a massive shortage like everyone seems to say there is. If you disagree, hire me!

  3. Fredex says:

    The only company I see that hires without regard to age is Wal-Mart. There’s your future if you are over fifty.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You first…

  5. Gav says:

    “Because most of them pay jack compared to what pen pushers and desk jockeys get paid”

    badburt, I don’t think that’s correct, at least for Engineers. I remember seeing a study a couple of years ago showing newly graduated engineers earn the 2nd highest wage of all graduates (Beaten by dentists). It climbs fairly rapidly in the field too.

    (In Australia)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t it interesting that most of these jobs are exactly the same ones that are being sent offshore (or being filled with undocumented workers in the U.S.) in order to reduce costs and increase the atrocious spread between the salaries of CEOs and those of everyday employees?

    Manpower may have asked which jobs are hard to fill, but the answer they got was which jobs are hard to fill at sub-minimum wages or without basic benefits are mandatory to keep a family afloat.

  7. Ray says:

    A few years ago I used to work for a large multinational automotive parts supplier.

    It was my experience that the candidates we interviewed were just not qualified.

    I now work for a small company which supplies test machines for automotive part suppliers, and it’s even worse for us. Even finding a decent technician is difficult and time consuming.

    We do get plenty of interested people, but none of them are any good at what we need them to do.

  8. meh says:

    I like how Engineers, often holding ABET certified 4+ year degrees, are lumped together with those jobs requiring 2 year tech school jobs.

    Note to MAKERS in Engineering School: if it isn’t a Masters Degree, it’s pretty much worthless in the job market right now.

  9. meh says:

    @meh: Gah, mine grammer is lacking this morning.

  10. Ray says:

    @meh: Actually, when I said “qualified”, I meant that they could actually do the job. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the degree they had.

    We once interviewed a guy for an electrical engineer position who had a masters degree. When showing him a simple schematic with an op amp, he asked “what’s the triangle?”.

    I’ve interviewed people for software engineer positions who didn’t even own a PC at home. Not because they couldn’t afford one, but because they just weren’t that interested in computers.

  11. meh says:

    @Ray: Oh I totally agree. The number of undergrad EE students at my former school that hadn’t ever touched a soldering iron was truly frightening. An ABET accredited degree doesn’t account for everything.

    The common story I get from my friends that recently graduated (and didn’t have jobs lined up well before hand) is that there is no shortage of engineering job hunters with Masters Degrees or a BS & 5-10 years experience. Sounds like the only way to even get a callback for an interview is to apply for jobs you’re massively over-qualified for.

    Most of my friends are not complete morons, though I can understand why job posters fear inept engineers.

    The employers, at least in my corner of the country, does not willing to accept new grads into entry-level jobs when there are more experienced engineers out there willing to fill them. With 15,000 jobs lost in my state since January and 10,000 more forecast, I think the recession nobody wants to admit exists is here already.

  12. Simon says:

    @meh Are you in the Northeast US?

    It’s much, much easier to find an engineering job in the South and West. It’s not so much the economy or job market in general, but that the industrial base of the US is moving from being concentrated in the Northeast to distributed across the country…

  13. Jobless mechanical engineer says:

    Hard to fill WHAT? To fill a STOCK! A stock jobless people! People that waiting for the promised job… How many times is this filled enough? 10 for 1 job? 100 for 1 job? 1000? 10000? Beware!

  14. Jason says:

    I looked into moving from computers to machining earlier this year, and I have to say that after I did some research on it, there was very little incentive to make such a career move (even though machining fascinated me). Here’s what I found out about machining and welding.

    1.) While there may be demand for these positions, employers are only willing to pay in the $9 to $18 hourly (welders, however, can make more than machinist after a couple of years – around $20 – $26 hourly).

    2.) The work in these fields can be exhausting, dirty and dangerous. There is little, if any, desire on the employers part to improve these conditions (welding fatalities are a reality in the industry today).

    3.) Because of high demand, when an employer does get a new hire, they end up over-working the individual to excess (12 hour work days seem to be a minimum right now for machinist).

    4.) Getting quality training in these fields can be difficult. Schools and colleges are dropping (or reducing) these programs due to costs and lack of interest from students.

    With my 15 years of experience in the IT industry (Unix Admin, programming and database management), I just couldn’t take the pay cut (about 50%), increased hours or possible physical stress. Even though I’m generally unsatisfied with my work, I, sadly, couldn’t justify making a career change into machining.

    I’ve ended up back in school for electronics technology, and I’m looking to transition to the lesser known field of Engineering Technologist. We’ll see where that gets me in 5 years.

    Just my 2 cents

  15. meh says:

    @Simon: Yes I’m in the northeast. Analysts seem to agree that my state is in a recession, mainly because of the lack of funding given to public & private colleges and universities (and it’s a BLUE state too!). It has lagged states like PA/NY and truly killed industrial reinvestment in the state. Nobody else in the area seems to be doing all that well though. I’ll let you guess where I live.

    I am lucky enough to have been working in a fairly nice job for several years after my own graduation. My friends that graduated this year are all complaining, though a few were recruited back to their co-op jobs.

    People interested in this sort of stuff, like those just entering school and trying to figure out what to do, should check out the BLS website. Here’s the page for engineers. Looks all good until you get to comments like:

    “Electronics engineers, except computer are expected to have employment growth of 4 percent during the projections decade, slower than the average for all occupations…”

    That seems to be common with most of the engineering concentrations.


  16. Ray says:

    @meh: Well I’m in Michigan, and we are still looking to hire a competent electronics technician, probably in the $8 to $15 per hour range.

    I work in the automotive industry, and it seems like people just hop around from one supplier to another over the years, with enough fresh hires to cover the retirement attrition.

    On a brighter note, I now know a lot of people now at a lot of different companies, most of them veterans of my previous employer.

  17. Daenris says:

    Ray:”probably in the $8 to $15 per hour range”

    That’s likely why you’ve been having trouble filling it.

  18. Davide says:

    I have a master computer science degree with full grades from the best tech university in Italy. I have also a master of science in computer science from UIC chicago. It took me six years to get here. Now some of you are saying that I went through all this for nothing?
    What would you recommend between looking for a job here in Italy and looking for a job in the states?
    Thanks to anyone that will reply… I am going through some very painful moments right now and I’d really appreciate some advice from makers overseas. write me at dade.c AT email.it

  19. tiorbinist says:

    Note: Whom did Manpower survey? HR departments. Who are they talking about? People whom HR consider to be a “resource”, not “people”. Why are the answers divorced from reality? Because HR ‘manages human resources’, but doesn’t concern itself with people. Engineers and technicians, machinists and welders are people, not “human resources”. As long as the questions asked are the wrong ones, the answers they get will be the wrong answers.

    NB: Where are the jobs? South and West US. Where are the technical hands which are trained to do the job? NE US. Why? Because the HR folk say “Go west, where labor is cheaper!” They see us as pegs, to be pulled out and replaced by other pegs. A job description is all you need. They don’t care to hire people who can do the job, they want to hire people who fit into a ‘manageable position’, even though the ‘manageable position’ doesn’t get the job done. Want to cure this problem? Stop letting HR make the determination about how to hire and how much to pay.

    Bottom line: HR sees engineering and technician work as identical to industrial lever-pulling. (A lot of this can be traced to the digital revolution: how much engineering is really needed when “all” the chips work on 0 and 5v, and all you have to do is let a program design a PC board to tie the chips together? The fact that this view of Electronics is totally void has nothing to do with it’s continued propagation amongst HR people.)

    My experience? 35 years as an electronics technician, during which time I’ve designed and built complex systems using FPGAs and embedded computers, written and edited manuals and procedures, calibrated, troubleshot and redesigned “from DC to light”. I have been awarded for my design work at a major research center. What do I do now? I splice fiber optics to make lasers, using someone else’s design, which has little to do with electronics. In this day of expensive gas, I have to commute to another state. Why? Because it is impossible to find an electronics technician’s job in my region of CT that pays well enough to keep my family (smaller than it was, with two through college and on their own, one in college and one away to start college, and one last one still at home and homeschooling — and we have no mortgage!) running.

    I’m old. I’m 54. I just finished getting two AS degrees at the leading CT technical 2-year college, Lasers and Fiber Optics And Electrical Engineering Technology, both summa cum laude. But I can’t get an electronics technician’s job. So in addition to having the education that any fresh-out-of-college tech has, I have 35 years of wide, varied and desirable experience, and I can’t find a technician’s job.

    To add insult to injury, I was encouraged at my current job to apply to and get accepted into the Electrical Engineering program at UCONN (one of the top 20 engineering colleges in the US), which I did. When I presented my schedule to get my very-flexed working schedule approved, I was told, sorry, we don’t allow a flexed schedule and your job is defined as first shift, so we gladly accept your resignation! Bingo, I’m out of college, and can’t continue it, because no engineering school in the state is interested in a ‘non-traditional’ student, and there are no online BSEE degrees available, accredited or not. Period.

    What’s the solution? There is none, as long as industry continues to apply the concept of “overseasing” jobs, whether they send them to Lithuania or Arkansas. As long as industry refuses to have jobs where the abilities are, they will continue to be able to whine about how they don’t have skilled labor, and about how hard it is to fill the job slots. And I will continue to work at a job I’m not qualified for, because at least that pays the bills.

    The end of industry in the US? It’ll be caused by the MBA’s and 10-minute-managers and HR, not by the technicians, machinists and engineers.

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