Where have all the PE’s gone?

2019 is bringing challenges to the recruiting of Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing Engineers for Consulting Engineering Firms. Principals are retiring and leaving the workforce. Firms need experience design professionals with PE license to replace them, but the PE pool is starting to run dry.

In the construction design industry, we know the importance of having a PE license.  However, in recent years it seems that candidates are not being able to focus on the requirements needed to pursue it. Getting your PE is not easy, and it takes the right training to be successful and grab those highly coveted letters “P.E.”.

I work in the MEP field as a Recruiter and I look for certain qualifications needed for my clients.  The type of industry and market experience, Internship experience, work history and certification are all important.  What I am finding is that lately there are 2 types of consulting firms, one that will truly mentor and help candidates to succeed and gain their PE license and one that will have engineers only work on one sector such as retail or commercial and not give them the experience to be a well-rounded Engineer with a PE.

It is important for new graduates with less than 3 years of experience to have opportunities to work on a variety of different types of projects so they can get their feet wet and keep their interest.  I have had candidates tell me that the reasons they are looking to make a change are:

  • So that they can be challenged on more difficult types of projects and
  • So that they can be mentored and not just thrown in a project without help. (THIS my friends should make you take a look at how your program works for new engineers coming on board.  They are more concerned with this factor than they are about benefits.)

Not to say that benefits don’t matter, they do.  You need to have a GREAT PTO policy, and Medical Benefits as well a true Retirement program.  This can be a 401K with a match or simple IRA program, it doesn’t matter, but you need one.  Also, the amount of the match is important when discussing this. Some firms are offering 4-5%.  Engineers are very educated in what they want in benefits and they talk among themselves and family members. Don’t forget the little things to show why you value and appreciate the people that work for you by:  BBQ’s, dress down Friday, Engineering related Competition among teams, softball teams, free Turkey’s at Thanksgiving, etc.

If you offer training, plentiful projects and growth potential within your firms you are far more likely to hold onto talent. I know because those firms are the hardest to recruit out of. The early career engineers we speak with are usually looking to move up to Project Manager or Sr. Engineer but find it difficult if they have not worked towards a PE license and find themselves stuck if they have not gathered the proper experience to pass the test.  This is where you will lose your star engineer if you haven’t made them a part of your team and helped them plan those first few years of their career.

Those firms who work with their early career engineers to help develop their skills and provide growth potential will win because they will develop talented individuals WITH PE Licenses who will one day step into management.