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Focusing on the workplace

| By Dorothy Lozowski

The results of a recent survey (2018 Pulse of Engineering Survey*) give a snapshot of how over 2,200 survey respondents view their current work environments. The respondents were predominantly design engineers (37%), followed by those in research and development, consulting, processing and production. The majority of respondents (64%) were seasoned professionals with more than 20 years of experience, with 42% at over 30 years of experience.

Regarding their overall career choices, working on interesting projects was cited as the most important factor by an overwhelming 87% of the respondents. And a good work/life balance came in second in importance, with a 67% vote. More than half of the respondents said that the pace of their work is constantly increasing and that they are expected to do more with less — a situation that presents challenges.


The challenges

According to the survey, engineers are feeling more pressure in their jobs, with designs becoming more complex and greater time-to-market pressures. While 78% of respondents said that they always or frequently meet quality targets, 40% also feel that pressure to meet deadlines is putting product quality at risk.

In addition to time pressures, other challenges to productivity, innovation and quality include constraints on people and resources, and a lack of talent and specialized knowledge. In fact, a constraint on resources and people was cited as being the biggest challenge, with 75% of the respondents in agreement.

Finding qualified candidates to fill positions has been a problem often cited by the chemical process industries in recent years. More and more, companies and universities are addressing the need through various programs. In Michigan, for example, Delta College (, in collaboration with The Dow Chemical Company ( offers an accelerated 13-week program to prepare students with skills for jobs as chemical process operators.

Continued attention to the skills gap is needed to train new employees as well as to raise the skill levels of current employees, engineers and operators alike, particularly as more skills related to the shift to increased digitalization — such as for data analytics — are needed.



When asked how engineers maintain and advance their professional skills, the top-rated answer was through books (at 48%), followed by learning through colleagues, online training courses and webinars. When the responses were broken down to differentiate between “veteran engineers” and “millennials,” there was little difference between the two groups in their responses to this question.

The importance of technical documentation was clearly noted in the survey, with 69% of respondents considering it to be the most essential tool needed to complete projects. Attention to maintaining good technical documentation, and the continuing challenges in doing so, are often mentioned in our articles**. Documentation is an area that apparently still needs improvement, and taking the time to maintain good records can save time in the longterm, and possibly help alleviate some of our workplace challenges. ■

Dorothy_LozowskiDorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director


* IEEE Global Spec (

** See for example,; and