Jesse Downs, Director of the LSU Olinde Career Center sees a definite hiring shift on the horizon. Although the exact numbers on hiring practices for the first half of the year are skewed due to the pandemic hitting full swing at the end of the campus recruiting cycle last spring, she sees some trends taking shape through her own observations and conversations with company recruiters. “Obviously businesses have more employees working remotely and most are looking for ways to automate processes and move away from paper,” she explained. “Companies are being forced to pivot and improve processes, while finding new ways to deliver services. With this shift, there could be a rise in the hiring of consultants to help re-envision business models.”
While the Career Center itself shifts its business model, including changes such as virtual recruiting, she notes that they have seen an uptick in specific industries, such as manufacturing, as these companies rush to meet the needs of the post-pandemic marketplace. Public works, infrastructure and construction projects have increased, while health care continues to be an ever-growing industry. All of these changes and expansion in these industries has led to a growth in immediate positions opening within the fields of technology, engineering and manufacturing.
Chris Jordan is CEO of Omnidek, a growing Louisiana software company that eliminates the need for multiple programs and apps by bringing clients’ teams and customers together on a single platform. Jordan says there is still an enormous demand for developers in the software industry. “Recently, I literally had to fight tooth and nail to keep one of my developers from leaving to work remotely for a large tech company in the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “It used to be that you had to move to Austin or Silicon Valley if you were a software developer, but now there are more remote jobs available for developers who wish to stay in state, which broadens the work opportunity for computer science graduates. Although it’s very competitive, there are jobs open for recent graduates working on the front end, back end, middleware and fixing bugs. Most eventually end up as a junior level developer and then continue to work their way up.”
The Omnidek platform is a “no code” application and can be implemented for Jordan’s end user customer by an Omnidek employee who does not specialize in creating code. Jordan is currently hiring for this position, which he calls business analysts—someone who is comfortable with technology, possesses a fundamental understanding of businesses and has a personality enabling he or she to communicate seamlessly with clients. “If I have a choice between someone who has a master’s degree and someone who has real-world work experience and understands the basics of business concepts like financial reporting, time sheets and purchase orders, I’m hiring the latter.” Jordan believes that as more software companies are currently developing no code platforms, there are more jobs opening up for non-programmers who must still be tech fluent and deploy the technology, but do not need to know how to program.”
Dr. Craig M. Harvey, Associate Dean of the LSU College of Engineering pointed out that the world has entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is a fusion of advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing and other technologies. This next phase of advancement is good news for recent graduates in most of the engineering disciplines as it offers a range of new job opportunities. “Industrial and mechanical engineers are in great demand right now,” said Harvey. “For example, GE has a plant that’s totally dedicated to additive manufacturing and 3-D printing producing parts for medical devices, jet engines, automobiles and a wide range of additional applications.” In addition to engineers leading the way in the design and manufacturing of medical devices, the pandemic has shown the need for specialty niches like supply chain engineering, which actually spills over into other industries such as food and beverage, home delivery services and more.
Even as the economy has slowed down during the pandemic, infrastructure and construction projects have moved forward at a steady pace maintaining the need for engineering in this sector. “In recent years, there has been huge growth in construction management and civil engineering degrees at LSU and I don’t see that slowing down in the immediate future,” noted Harvey.
Computer science, software development and engineering all cross paths as manufacturers continue to produce products that utilize robotic devices and sensors. The Internet of Things has given birth to a wide range of smart products for the home, industry, appliances, transportation and more. These industries will only grow and increase the need for graduates who can contribute in these fields. In an online article from TechTarget Network, researchers estimated the total spend on Internet of Things devices and services at nearly $1 trillion in 2020 and $1.1 trillion in 2021. “As manufacturers continue to produce home voice assistants, Fitbits, smart meters, appliances and other devices, I see this sector continuing to grow,” stated Harvey. “Recently, I’ve seen graduates in computer engineering and electrical engineering go on to work for Disney, GE, large consulting firms and a host of other companies.”
Both Harvey and Jordan agree that another hot field, data analytics, works hand-in-hand with technology and engineering. “While in the past only business schools offered courses or degrees in data analytics, it is now being integrated into LSU’s engineering curriculums to adapt to its need. For example, years ago petroleum engineers relied more on experience and guess work to drill for oil. Today, they’re making more data-driven decisions on where to drill leading to the term “digital oil field,” which is a new approach to exploration helping to cut cost and increase efficiency. As we integrate data analytics into the engineering curriculum, students are learning how to use data within their specific engineering field.”
As is evident, many disciplines within the worlds of technology, engineering and manufacturing continue to blur creating more opportunities for new graduates entering the workforce. However, it should be noted that the job market will not only become increasingly competitive, it will continue to change. Even before the pandemic, the entire global economy was moving toward a more consultant-oriented workforce with business models changing from hiring and firing to freelance contracting as needed. “It’s a new economy similar to what Uber did to transportation,” said Chris Jordan. “With more individuals with talents in the areas of graphic design, accounting and digital marketing and more, contracted labor and individuals can work from home making six figures doing what they love.
Jordan advises those graduating in the tech world to take additional business classes and gain some practical business experience whether that’s through school, an internship or continued education. Harvey urges engineering students to supplement their educations with data analytics, leadership and teamwork, and communication skills to enhance their abilities in these areas. “In the College of Engineering we have a number of tools and services to assist our students,” said Harvey. “The Chevron Center is home to the Engineering Communication Studio that features 3-D and large-scale printers, and the Society of Peer Mentors focuses on leadership and teamwork skills, and works closely with LSU’s Communication Across the Curriculum to equip our engineering students with the right skills. As a result, the College of Engineering consistently produces the most Distinguished Communicators on campus.” Seeking out additional experiences and taking advantage of supplemental education opportunities helps to enhance your skill set in what will continue to be a competitive job market.
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