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Employment in the European electronics sector is expected to grow according to a new study by Oxford Economics released today by IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries. Such a trend would exacerbate issues created by an existing shortage of skilled workers according to our members.
The study’s release accompanied IPC’s announcement that it is expanding its Workforce Champions initiative from the United States to the European Union, with a pledge to create at least 500,000 workforce training opportunities to workers and students across the EU over the next five years.
Commissioned by IPC, the Oxford Economics report examined the data for the European electronics industry, which currently employs approximately 2.4 million workers in the 28 member states of the EU (the EU28), or about 8 percent of overall manufacturing employment. Key findings of the study include:
- Employment in the European electronics sector is climbing but still below pre-2008-recession levels.
- Germany remains the clear employment leader in the European electronics industry. In 2018, the electronics industry in Germany employed approximately 813,000 workers, equivalent to just over a third of total employment in the EU28. France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Poland round out the top five.
- The electronics industry is moving eastward. From 2011 to 2018, electronics industry employment in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) grew at an average annual rate of 2.1%, more than double the rate in the EU15.
- Employment growth across the EU28 is expected to average 0.2 percent per year over the next five years.
- However, the trend is expected to be far from uniform across Europe with the shift eastward projected to continue with the majority of CEE economies forecast to enjoy above-average employment growth.
- Further research into the UK shows that wage growth in the electronics sector has run well ahead of the economy average and the rest of the manufacturing sector since 2011.
- Such a trend is consistent with the existence of a skills gap which has weakened the negotiating power of firms in the labour market, although further research is required to reach any definitive conclusions. We plan to make such analysis part of our research programme over the coming year.
IPC commissioned the study to better understand employment trends in Europe to undertake further research and to inform its workforce training programs. IPC certifies more than 100,000 electronics workers per year globally and recently launched the IPC Education Foundation to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs at universities and secondary schools.
The shortage of skilled workers is the industry’s top business concern. Companies simply cannot attract enough young workers to replace those retiring. With unemployment in many counties near record lows, market conditions are surely a factor. At the same time, electronics manufacturers are requiring ever-greater skillsets as the industry moves to advanced manufacturing.
Advanced manufacturing, which relies heavily on robotics and automation, opens new horizons for the European electronics industry. The workers in these cutting-edge facilities tend to have less hands-on interaction with manual tools and greater reliance on computer-managed machinery. This trend is making manufacturing cleaner and safer than in the past, but it is placing new skills requirements on workers.
“The chronic shortage of adequately skilled workers and the changes in skills required are some of the most difficult challenges facing the electronics industry in Europe and worldwide,” said IPC President and CEO John Mitchell. “More than two-thirds of IPC companies indicate that a lack of skilled workers is constraining their ability to grow.
“That is why IPC is significantly expanding our industry’s efforts to engage young people and provide the education and training programs they need to enter and be successful in this industry.
“From a policy perspective,” Mitchell added, “we believe Europe needs to take a strong cross-sectoral policy approach to expanding the skilled workforce and strengthening the electronics value-chain.”
IPC unveiled its EU Workforce Champions initiative in a meeting with Inge Bernaerts, Head of Cabinet for Marianne Thyssen, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility.
In support of its pledge, IPC is making unprecedented, multi-million-dollar investments in its education, training and workforce programs. The multifaceted effort will include investments in training and credentialing programs, STEM programming in secondary and post-secondary schools, “Earn & Learn” programs, and new job opportunities.
IPC is a global industry association dedicated to the competitive excellence and financial success of its 5,000-member company sites (including 723 in Europe) which represent all facets of the electronics industry, including design, printed board manufacturing, electronics assembly and test. As a member-driven organization and leading source for industry standards, training, market research and public policy advocacy, IPC supports programs to meet the needs of an estimated $2 trillion global electronics industry.