Contingent Workforce Trends to Watch: Environmental Engineering and Manufacturing

For industries that fall under the engineering and manufacturing umbrella, what we’ve seen at Medix is that 2022 has been a year of recovery and growth, coupled with both the rise and continuation of economic and workforce challenges.

Post-pandemic labor issues persist. Skills shortages are exacerbating hiring roadblocks. And the specter of a possible recession looms on the horizon. In response, those responsible for hiring are getting creative in overcoming these issues, though they do have reason to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

As we near the start of 2023, let’s pause to reflect on the workforce trends we at Medix have witnessed impacting manufacturing and environmental engineering organizations this year, and highlight what they mean for both sectors moving forward.

The Manufacturing Workforce: Hurdles and Opportunities

According to Deloitte, manufacturing could face a shortage of 2.1 million skilled jobs by 20301. So, it follows that for 38% of manufacturing executives, attracting new workers was a #1 priority this year—and will continue to be in 2023.

It appears this laser-focus in filling open roles has paid off in 2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on September 2nd that hiring in the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in August, while unfilled positions in the sector further declined2.

A closer look at the numbers shows that, in August, U.S. manufacturers added 22,000 new positions. Additionally, the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey finds the number of job openings in manufacturing declined further to a preliminary 846,000 in July3. 

While this uptick in job openings is a positive development for the industry, those responsible for filling open manufacturing roles must get creative if they want to overcome skill deficiencies in order to staff available positions in 2023.

A 2021 National Law Review survey shows that manufacturers were already thinking outside the box in conventional and more ways as they entered 20224:

  • 27% relaxed the requirement to have a high school diploma or GED
  • 20% loosened aptitude testing requirements
  • 20% eased required prior experience standards
  • Nearly 60% targeted students at nearby trade schools and community colleges
  • More than 50% focused hiring efforts on employees of nearby employers
  • Nearly 40% sought military veterans
  • 56% increased base wages by 1%-5%
  • 22% increased base pay rates by 6%-10% 
  • 61% added up to 2 paid days off per year 
  • 17% no longer required new hires to work a full-time schedule

At Medix, we’ve seen some of our own clients getting creative with their hiring tactics in the same manner, with work flexibility and pay scales emerging as two of the most crucial factors in the talent acquisition equation. As Nick Limouris, National Director of Engineering for Medix, points out, “From what we’re seeing at Medix, the trajectory for this workforce has been holding steady, but competition remains high. Those who are able to entice workers on a compensation level, but also on a work flexibility level, will be the ones who win during the hiring process. The contingent workforce will factor greatly into this equation.”

The Environmental Engineering Workforce: Steady Upswing

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics5, employment of environmental engineers is projected to grow 4% from 2021 to 2031, with an average of 3,400 openings for environmental engineers projected each year over the decade. They further point out that, “many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations, or exit the labor force due to retirement.”

While this is a positive career growth trajectory for environmental engineers themselves, there are positions within, or related to, the environmental engineering industry which merit their own labor forecast highlight:

  • Environmental scientists: Projected to grow 5% from 2021 to 2031, with an average of 7,800 openings projected each year over the decade.
  • Soil and agricultural technicians (as well as food science techs): Projected to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031, with an average of 4,900 openings projected each year over the decade.
  • Civil engineers: Projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031, with an average of 24,200 openings each year over the decade. 

These projections support a continuation of recent employment status numbers related to industries that employ environmental engineers. As of 2021, the industries with the highest published employment for Environmental Engineers included6:

  • Architectural and Engineering services (13,470)
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services (7,680)
  • State Government (excluding schools and hospitals) (6,230)

But the good news for employment in roles related to environmental engineering fields doesn’t stop there. In the next decade, jobs in environmental science and specialties are projected to grow 8%7. A number of environmental engineering positions within that categorization are projected to experience even higher growth rates, including environmental science technicians (10.6%) and plant scientists (10%)7

This supports what Medix has been seeing as one of the biggest environmental engineering trends going into 2023—”greenification.” There’s a holistic push within both environmental engineering and manufacturing toward initiatives aimed at preserving the environment. This includes everything from remediation and cleanup to the development of U.S. based chip and battery plants, to renewed interest in wind turbines and solar fields. 

Because these projects are backed by significant government funding, there is less worry in both industries about the potential for an economic downturn. Green projects are ramping up, and companies cannot hire enough people fast enough to meet demand to keep pace with this growth trajectory.

What does this picture of the current environmental engineering workforce tell us for the future? It underscores what we’ve seen at Medix, which is that the future for environmental engineering is overwhelmingly bright. Nick Burrows, Sr. Director of Engineering + Construction at Medix highlights that, “All signs point to continued positive growth. With particular promise in engineering roles related to green initiatives. Our clients all say the same thing—they have no intentions of slowing down.”

However, one area where hiring challenges look to persist is in recruitment for roles requiring 5-15 years of experience. While we’ve noted that finding qualified talent to fill these positions remains a sticking point, the good news is that organizations can turn to contingent workers to fill emerging gaps in the short term, until the trajectory for full-time workers changes.  

Hiring Advice from Medix as You Approach 2023

Though the manufacturing and environmental engineering industries may not be on identical employment trajectories going into the new year, the advice we’d give each around hiring approaches is the same. 

  • Be proactive in your recruiting practice: This means thinking ahead and giving yourself as much runway as possible to fill much-needed roles. In other words, if your plan is to hire in Q2 of 2023, do not wait until March 2023 to start the process. The market is too tight for that. Demand is high and talent is in short supply, with unprecedented wage increases still being offered. Set yourself up for success by setting a hiring plan now. 
  • Be quick to react in making hiring decisions: A long lead time is valuable, but in the end means nothing if you are slow to act once you have a viable candidate in front of you. This will be especially important for smaller organizations who are trying to run leaner in the face of current economic conditions. In these cases, losing one employee can grind operations to a halt. So, yes, plan ahead. But also, yes, be ready to act at a moment’s notice.  
  • Benefits are still a big factor at the bargaining table: In both engineering and manufacturing, remote work, flexibility, and other job perks can be the difference between talent accepting your job offer or an offer from your competition. So, think about how you can make remote or hybrid work for your workforce. Of course, not every position can fulfill their job duties offsite. But for those who can, this will help you look more attractive in the eyes of prospective candidates.  

Connect with Medix Hiring Experts

Do you need help keeping pace with current engineering talent market trends or planning for workforce hiring in 2023? Learn how Medix Engineering can help you plan today to get ahead tomorrow.


Sources: 1. Wellener, Paul and Kate Hardin. “2022 Manufacturing Industry Outlook.” Deloitte (September 2021), 2. CES Analysts. “Current Employment Statistics Survey.” Bureau of Labor Statistics (October 2022), 3. Industry Select. “The Latest in Manufacturing Hiring Trends (August 2022)”, 4. The National Law Review. “Manufacturing During a Labor Shortage: How Manufacturers Have Been Innovating on Ways to Attract New Employees.” (August 2021), 5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Environmental Engineers., 6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. Environmental Engineers. (May 2021), 7. CNBC. “These Are the 6 Fastest-Growing Green Jobs of the Next Decade–and How Much They Pay.” (October 2021).


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