Europe’s down economy is having little effect on hiring qualified engineers
By Ron Schneiderman / March 2012
Early in 2011, Intel put out the word that it planned to hire 1000 software engineers by the end of the year in the U.S. It beat its deadline. Now, it wants to do the same thing in Europe.
Aiming to strengthen its R&D capacity in the greater Europe region (Europe, Russia, and Israel), Intel expects to hire about 1000 software engineers in 2012, with most of them based in Poland, Finland, France, Romania, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
Intel’s is particularly interested in software and test developers familiar with C/C++, wireless integration software and hardware engineers, analog and process engineers, and design, validation, and verification engineers. “We would expect these profiles to have appropriate technical skills, including programming skills in languages such as C-shell, Perl, Scheme, tcl/Tk, and C, a knowledge of static timing analysis and knowledge of DFT, and strong ASIC, and SoC [system on a chip] design experience,” says Stephanie Lee, Sales/Marketing Group European Account Manager for European Staffing for Intel Corp. UK Ltd.
Google, which added about 500 engineers and computer scientists in Europe in 2011, plans to hire hundreds more this year, in the U.K., Dublin, Zurich, Poland, Hamburg, and Munch. Google is also looking for several engineering operations specialists to manage its global network, as well as technical staff to cover the company’s developer relations, Web development, and technical sales and support in its offices in the UK, Dublin, and Berlin.
European Aeronautics, Defense & Space (EADS), which is partially owned by the governments of Germany, France, and Spain, says it is looking for more than 2000 engineers and IT professionals in France, nearly 2000 in Germany, and about 500 in Spain and the UK—about the same numbers EADS hired in 2011.
High on EADS’s wish list are engineers with backgrounds in software engineering, electrotechnology, computer science, design and systems engineering, aeronautical, space, and MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations).
Siemens also has big hiring plans this year. As of December 2011, the company had about 3400 open positions in Germany, with more than 80 percent requiring a university-level degree, including engineering and computer science. In Germany alone, there are some 6000 new job openings at Siemens. Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), on the other hand, has announced plans to cut thousands of jobs in Germany, prompting top executives at Siemens to call for a review of NSN’s job cuts and consolidation plans. It is not clear at this point how many of the cuts would involve engineers and other technical professionals.
Cambridge, UK-based ARM lists about 126 engineering job openings to staff its design centers and sales and support offices across Europe.
The European Space Agency (ESA) needs several engineers for its science and robotics exploration facility in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.
Nvidia is growing, and so is its need for engineers, following last year’s acquisition of cellular modem company, Icera Semiconductor. It now has three new engineering facilities in Europe, two in the UK (Bristol and Cambridge) and one in France (Sophia Antipolis). “As a result of Nvidia’s success in the smartphone market and move into the mainstream phone market, we are currently ramping up our mobile communications software team,” says Steve Allpress, the company vice president-modem software. “We’re also growing our chip team and expanding our certification, RF, and hardware engineering groups.”
Allpress says Nvidia expects to double the size of its Cambridge facility. “We plan to recruit some 60 engineers in Bristol and Sophia Antipolis over the next six months.” He also says the company’s growth in the automotive market will drive recruitment in Germany this year with about 15 newly created positions across software, hardware, and application engineering in Munich and Wurselen.
The National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France has a long and very specific shopping list for 2012. It’s looking for 49 postdoctoral fellows, 60 R&D engineers, 32 Ph.D students, 20 tenured researchers, and a research director to fill computer science and mathematics slots. It also has eight research positions with what INRIA calls innovative international profiles that offer three-year renewable contracts. “The focus,” says Eric Chareyre, the research center’s talent detection project manager, “is on R&D engineers. We will hire [recent] graduates, but a few positions are open for experienced engineers.”
“What we look for most of all in new recruits,” notes Chareyre, “is an ability to adapt quickly to new contexts, which are always highly technical and resolutely cosmopolitan.” But, he says, “All applicants will be considered.”
Microsoft also has openings in several locations. It’s looking for software engineers in Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Spain, France, and the UK, as well as several operations and field management engineers in most of these countries.
Most of Qualcomm’s engineering hires this year will be in India, but it also has openings in the UK for application engineers, digital design engineers, and a few positions in Munich for simulation and test and valuation engineers. STMicroelectronics is offering 119 engineering internships in France, but also looking for hardware and application engineers to staff its facilities in France and Italy. International Rectifier is trying to recruit test engineers for its facility in Pavia, Italy, power electronics engineers for its French design center in Aix en Provence, and a senior discrete products engineer for its operation in Newport (Wales), UK.
Intersil Corp. needs 4 senior IC design engineers in Harlow-Essex, UK. Cisco Systems, which cut several thousand jobs last year when it dropped plans to expand into more consumer-oriented businesses, has several openings for software and hardware engineers in the UK, but also needs an ASIC design engineer in Nuremberg, Germany. And NXP Semiconductor is trying to recruit 40 engineers and several IT specialists in The Netherlands.
Analog Devices is looking for about 30 engineers in Europe.
Marvell Technology Group Ltd., a fabless chip company, has about 30 engineering positions in Europe, mostly in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland.
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., the giant Chinese telecom equipment provider, plans to open a mobile device design center in London later this year to develop a line of smartphones exclusively for the European market. Yingying Li, who represents Huawei out of its UK office, says, “We are still at the planning stage of the London Design Centre, so unfortunately we are unable to disclose how many engineers we are going to recruit, the specific skills required, and the location. We expect to have more details in the second half of the year.” Huawei’s U.S. headquarters is in Plano, Texas, but the company recently made its offices in Santa Clara its official North American R&D center.
EV Group, the wafer bonding and lithography equipment specialist based in St. Florian, Austria, added about 100 employees last year based on a 40 percent increase in orders in fiscal year 2011, and is currently looking for an additional 16 specialists, including software design and software test engineers, electronic computer-aided design engineers, process and project engineers, and a security services engineer.
Cambridge Consultants, a UK-based firm that designs mostly wireless and medical products for other companies, also continues to hire. Tom Bloomfield, associate director and head of corporate resourcing, says CC added 60 people to its staff in 2011, and is actively recruiting several more engineers, software specialists, and other technical professionals.
Nokia’s website recently listed several hundred openings for engineers, but virtually all of them will be based in California, Beijing, and India. (Nokia recently announced layoffs at its factories in Komarom, Hungary, Reynosa, Mexico, and Salo, Finland, but the cutbacks only impact production. It’s also shifting some of its device assembly to Asia.)
Clearly, engineers, especially those with the right skill sets, can pick their spots.
Competition for technical talent “is fierce,” says Intel’s Lee.
Between 2000 and 2010, the information communications technology (ICT) workforce has grown steadily in the EU, from 2 720 000 to 4 144 500. But that’s not fast enough to fill all of the available job openings across the 27 EU member countries.
In February, the UK Visa Bureau’s UK Shortage Occupations List reported that EEs, network design engineers, and senior project engineers were in “high demand” in the country.
The German Economic Research Organization and the Association of German Engineers reported a shortage of about 80 000 engineers in Germany November 2011.
To promote its “New Skills for New Jobs” initiative, the European Commission (EC) has launched a new project called “Monitoring Labor Market Developments in Europe.” The idea is to gather up-to-date information on job vacancies in all categories to serve as an early-warning tool for bottlenecks and mismatches in the labor market. The information is available through two quarterly bulletins—the European Vacancy Monitor (EVM) and the European Job Mobility Bulletin (EJMB)— and an analysis of vacancies posted on the European Union (EU) jobs portal (and its database) by national public employment services.
The demand for engineers was evident in the most recent edition of EVM, which lists occupations in highest demand by country. Engineers ranked first in the UK and Bulgaria, and were second in demand in Germany, Romania, Norway, Ireland, and Spain. Engineers ranked fourth in Slovenia, fifth in Poland, and seventh in France and Sweden.
The EVM also lists vacancies for IT staff. In Germany, IT specialists rank fourth among hardest to fill occupations by country. Germany is followed by The Netherlands and Poland, where IT is the fifth most difficult job to fill. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic ranked IT jobs sixth, with IT ranked seventh in France, Italy, Spain, and Belgium, ninth in Norway, and tenth in the UK.
Another new program is European e-Skills Week 2012, an EC initiative to raise awareness of the role played by e-skills for jobs.
EDUCATION STATS AN ISSUE
A big part of the problem in filling so many engineering positions is that, with few exceptions, European universities aren’t turning out enough engineers and other technical professionals to meet Europe’s needs. (The European Round Table of Industrialist says Asian countries currently train three times as many engineers, and twice as many scientists as European member states.)
Eurostat, the EU’s statistical organization, says the number of graduates from math, science and technology programs dropped off in Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, and the UK in 2008 (as it was at the time in the U.S.). But Eurostat said it was climbing in 2008 in Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden.
Alexa Joyce, senior corporate development manager of European Schoolnet, a network of EU Ministries of Education, says that since 2006, computer science graduates have been in continuous decline in all EU countries with the exception of Germany and Poland. (Empirica, a private international research and consulting firm in Bonn, predicts the EU faces an “excess demand” of 384 000 ICT jobs by 2015.)
EADS says there are 12 000 job openings for aeronautical engineers in Europe every year, but only 9000 coming out of the European education system.
To help attract graduates, EADS conducts several workshops annually at the Paris Air Show, which draws more than 1000 participants. EADS also says it is working with schools to attract more women to careers in technology. Jorg Kutzim, the head of EADS recruitment, also told Flight Daily News at last year’s Paris Air Show that the company is trying to add people from different cultures because its business is becoming more global.
Against that background, European business leaders and education policy makers have launched a $10.88 million initiative to help fill the skill sets they believe are needed if Europe’s economy is to recover by 2020. The effort is led by InGeniouas, a new European coordinating body for engineering, science, and mathematics founded by the European Round Table of Industrialists and European Schoolnet, aimed at encouraging young people to consider careers in technology and science. The program has the backing of Microsoft, Intel, Nokia, BASF, Volvo, Philips, and other international companies.
Interestingly, high unemployment and economic stagnation across Europe seems to have had little impact on the ICT workforce across most of the 27 EU member states.
“Is the economy in Europe having any impact on our recruitment efforts,” says INRIA’s Eric Chareyre. “No, it isn’t.”
But the news isn’t all good.
Although one website lists more than 400 IT job openings across Europe, Stephen Minton, vice president of International Data Corp.’s Global Technology and Industry Research Organization, says, “There are risks to the outlook for 2012, mainly related to macroeconomic weakness in Europe, where IT spending is still weak. In a downside scenario, things could get much uglier in Europe and have a ripple effect through other regions.”
The Economic Survey of Germany 2012 adds its own words of caution, noting that labor migration has become a key issue in its ability (or inability) to recruit qualified technical personnel. The report says, “Labor migration must be better focused on economic needs, which requires lowering the hurdles for high skilled migrants.”
Europe, by most standards, doesn’t have a particularly strong record of entrepreneurship.
While expectations to start a business are high in confident, emerging economies, such as China, Chile, and Brazil, Donna J. Kelley, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College, a private business school in Wellesley, Mass., and a lead author of the school’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor for 2011 (GEM), says European countries “now swooning” in debt and austere economic futures are more skittish. “Portugal and Spain have some of the lowest perceptions of entrepreneurial opportunity,” she says.
“The GEM has seen an increase in new business activity in most, but not all, European countries in 2010 and 2011, although most of this appears to be necessity-driven and/or relatively low in ambition,” says Jonathan Levie, director of knowledge exchange at the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK, who was involved in the Babson study.
Levie believes The Netherlands might be an indicator of things to come, ”where we have seen a steadily increasing overall rate of new business activity over the past five years, but this is mainly driven by people starting businesses who do not expect to employ others. This appears to be a lifestyle choice linked to a general trend for outsourcing. We also see increases [in start-ups] in economically distressed countries like Ireland, Spain, Greece, and Portugal, but most of this appears to be an increase in necessity-driven new business activity.”
The one major bright spot is mobile communications. The European edition of the Mobile Observatory report, published by GSMA, which represents mobile system operators worldwide, identifies the mobile industry as a critical business sector in Europe, in 20 years growing to become comparable in size to aerospace and larger than pharmaceuticals, creating an estimated 1.7 million jobs. The report suggests that future advances in mobile technologies will enhance investment opportunities in this sector and continue to provide new job opportunities across Europe.
About Ron Schneiderman:
Ron Schneiderman is a contributing editor for Electronic Design and Vision Magazines, and a regular contributor to IEEE Signal Processing Magazine. He’s the author of seven books, including “Technology Lost — Hype and Reality in the Digital Age.”