06 December 2018 by Spencer Symmons
In our current state of political and economic uncertainty, the future can seem unclear to many in the workforce. For engineers already dealing with skills shortages, new technologies and changing ways of working, it is no different. As the ‘year of engineering’ draws to a close, we take a look at some of the challenges facing the sector and predict how these will be overcome.
The skills shortage in engineering is, unfortunately, something that will likely continue into 2019 and beyond. The rising costs associated with attracting top technical skills could mean that employers will seek to hire more candidates from non-traditional educational backgrounds, but there are benefits that are often overlooked in this approach. Hiring based on potential, rather than experience, builds loyalty in employees and skill development encourages retainment. It means that soft skills will become even more important, as candidates will be unable to rely on technical prowess to differentiate themselves. It seems likely that that firms will have to look inwardly and to different pools of talent, focusing on developing skills rather than recruiting ready-made ones.
Far from replacing engineers, automation will take over menial tasks and allow workers to focus on more interesting and creative projects. Employees will be required to spend less time at their desks, instead working remotely or in practical environments thanks to new technologies. Whilst the workplace will evolve, safety concerns may limit development in other areas – with experts predicting a ban or restriction on semi-autonomous driving in at least three countries by the end of next year. Automation will progress rapidly in 2019, but safety concerns must be addressed and solutions effectively communicated.
Cyber attacks have had a huge impact in 2018 and hackers are only becoming smarter and braver. Moving into 2019, we’re likely to see an increase in cyber-physical attacks as fraudsters seek to effect manufacturing equipment and surveillance cameras. Engineers will find themselves designing more and more systems with security at the forefront, and perhaps dealing with the fallout from advanced attacks.
Whilst 2019 will almost certainly see the first 5G-ready devices brought to market, it remains to be seen as to whether we will see widespread network coverage. As we saw with 4G, it’s thought that major towns and cities will be able to experience the faster connections long before the rest of the nation. In the meantime, it’s likely to be a headache for marketers as firms rush to complete the job without frustrating users. Engineers will see themselves under increasing pressure to work as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Another traditional way of working that is falling to the wayside is that of the full-time, nine-to-five. Whilst the gig economy is nothing new to engineers, there are several factors at play that are likely to lead to more opportunities for gig workers in 2019. The uncertain post-Brexit economy, skill shortages, and a growing demand for flexible working will combine to make contract and temporary jobs more commonplace than ever in the year to come.
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