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Engineering a Bright Future

by Jan Saxhaug
July 2014

It might surprise you to learn that in Northeast Minnesota, a region traditionally strong in blue-collar industries such as mining, manufacturing, construction, and transportation, one of fastest growing industry sub-sectors is Architecture, Engineering, and Related Services. In fact, engineering services firms in the Arrowhead Region are in the midst of a period of unprecedented expansion - with more growth projected in the foreseeable future. Across the Northland demand for workers with training in engineering has been building rapidly. Additional projected growth in the Mining and Manufacturing sectors means that Northeast Minnesota will be a great place for engineers and engineering technicians for years to come.

As these traditional industries become more reliant on advanced technologies, they require an increasingly skilled workforce. While many of these firms are directly hiring the engineering talent they need, many others are outsourcing this technical expertise to the region's growing engineering firms. According to DEED's Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), there were 89 Architecture, Engineering, and Related Services establishments providing 659 jobs across Northeast Minnesota at the turn of the century. By 2013 the number of establishments had increased modestly to 110, but total employment had soared to 1,173 covered jobs, nearly double the amount one decade earlier.

Most of the long-term growth has come in the Engineering Services sub-sector. Since 2000, Engineering Services employment has grown by 21 percent across Minnesota, but in the seven counties of Northeast Minnesota, employment in the sub-sector has increased by an astounding 204 percent (Chart 1).


Chart 1


While the majority of Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services employment is found in the growing Engineering Services sub-sector, related jobs are also found in Architectural Services, Surveying and Mapping, and Testing Laboratories, although those industries saw small job declines (Table 1).


Table 1

Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services Subsectors

Industry

2013

Establishments

2013

Employment

% Change 2012 - 2013

Average

Weekly Wage

Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services

110

1,173

+13.6%

$1,285

Architectural Services

19

105

-4.5%

$965

Engineering Services

55

889

+20.0%

$1,342

Surveying and Mapping Services

15

35

+2.9%

$786

Testing Laboratories

9

93

-10.6%

$831

Source: DEED, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages


A Matter of Proportions

While much of the recent growth in engineering-related employment is occurring at Engineering Services firms, there are also engineers spread across other industry sectors. According to DEED's Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OES) program, there were 1,900 people working in Architecture and Engineering occupations across Northeast Minnesota.

The largest percentage of those jobs were found in Professional and Business Services, the industry in which the Engineering Services sub-sector is classified, followed by 390 jobs in Manufacturing, 320 jobs in Public Administration, 270 jobs in Natural Resources and Mining, and 120 jobs in Trade.


Table 2

Leading Industries for Architecture and Engineering Occupations

Industry

Estimated Regional Employment

Median Hourly Wage,
Q2 2013

Professional and Business Services

720

$30.11

Manufacturing

390

$34.00

Public Administration

320

$27.58

Natural Resources and Mining

270

$34.86

Trade, Transportation, and Utilities

120

$34.16

Financial Activities

40

$33.41

Construction

20

$28.23

Educational and Health Services

10

$22.95

Source: Occupational Employment Statistics


Continuous Improvement Process

Looking to the future, employment in engineering-related industries and occupations is expected to continue expanding. According to DEED's Employment Outlook data, Northeast Minnesota's Architectural and Engineering Services sector was projected to grow an additional 17.8 percent from 2010 to 2020.

However, according to QCEW data, there were already 1,222 Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services jobs in Northeast Minnesota through the fourth quarter of 2013, meaning the region has already surpassed projected job totals for the decade. Instead, if employers keep growing jobs at the projected pace, the region could see an additional 200 engineering services jobs by 2020.

As noted above, other sectors employing workers with engineering skills are also projected to see significant growth over the next decade, including Mining and Manufacturing. Based on that, Northeast Minnesota should continue to be a great place for engineers and engineering technicians to find employment opportunities (Table 3).


Table 3
Employment Outlook, Industries, 2010-2020

NAICS Code

NAICS Industry

Estimated 2010
Employment

Projected 2020
Employment

Percent
Change

Total
Change

5413

Architectural and Engineering Services

900

1,060

17.8%

160

21

Mining

3,839

4,316

12.4%

477

31

Manufacturing

8,303

9,010

8.5%

707


The engineering-related occupations that are projected to have the most total openings by 2020 include Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, and Industrial Engineers, as well as Civil Engineering Technicians and Survey and Mapping Technicians. In contrast, Architects, Other Engineers, Surveyors, and Industrial Engineering Technicians are expected to see very small job changes (Table 4).


Table 4

Employment Outlook, Occupations, 2010 - 2020

Occupation

Estimated 2010 Employment

Projected 2020 Employment

Percent Change

Total Change

Replacement Hires

Total Hires

Mechanical Engineers

156

182

16.7%

26

50

80

Electrical Engineers

162

177

9.3%

15

40

60

Industrial Engineers

156

177

13.5%

21

30

50

Civil Engineers

169

188

11.2%

19

30

50

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

134

145

8.2%

11

30

40

Civil Engineering Technicians

237

240

1.3%

3

40

40

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

139

136

-2.2%

-3

30

30

Architects, Except Landscape and Naval

61

75

23.0%

14

10

20

Engineers, All Other

42

50

19.0%

8

10

20

Mechanical Drafters

58

69

19.0%

11

10

20

Environmental Engineers

35

41

17.1%

6

10

20

Surveyors

31

34

9.7%

3

10

10

Industrial Engineering Technicians

36

39

8.3%

3

10

10

Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining

28

30

7.1%

2

10

10

Engineering Technicians, Except Drafters, All Other

42

43

2.4%

1

10

10

Architectural and Civil Drafters

73

73

0.0%

0

10

10

Source: DEED, Employment Outlook


High Demand, High Pay

Because of the recent growth in Northeast Minnesota, 13 engineering occupations are exhibiting conditions of high current demand according to DEED's Occupations in Demand tool. Engineering-related occupations are also some of the best-paying jobs in the region. Engineering technician jobs that generally require an associate degree pay a median annual salary ranging from the high $30,000's to the high $50,000's, while engineering jobs that require a bachelor's degree pay median wages beginning in the low $70,000's to the high $90,000's (Table 5).


Table 5

Engineering-related Occupations in Demand, Northeast Minnesota

Job Title

Rank

Current Demand Indicator

25th Percentile Wage

Median Wage

Regional Growth Rate, 2010-2020

Total Openings, 2010-2020

Education Requirements

Architectural, Engineering Managers

38

*****

$82,813

$99,268

Above Average

60

Bachelor's

Civil Engineering Technicians

42

*****

$47,013

$56,013

Below Average

40

Associate's

Mining and Geological Engineers

44

*****

$68,615

$81,307

Average

10

Bachelor's

Electrical Engineers

61

*****

$70,290

$78,602

Average

60

Bachelor's

Environmental Engineers

65

*****

$72,051

$82,804

Above Average

20

Bachelor's

Industrial Engineers

82

****

$66,595

$79,049

Above Average

50

Bachelor's

Chemical Engineers

85

****

$65,323

$76,034

Below Average

0

Bachelor's

Aerospace Engineers

95

****

$80,224

$96,620

Well Above Average

0

Bachelor's

Mechanical Engineers

117

****

$61,164

$73,434

Above Average

80

Bachelor's

Health and Safety Engineers

174

***

$78,015

$89,283

Well Above Average

0

Bachelor's

Electronics Engineers

176

***

$60,598

$72,885

Well Above Average

0

Bachelor's

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

196

***

$38,359

$43,801

Below Average

10

Associate's

Engineering Technicians, All Other

199

***

$48,382

$53,216

Below Average

10

Associate's

Source: DEED. Occupations in Demand tool


A Blueprint for Success

After enjoying unprecedented job growth in the last 10 years, industries that rely on skilled engineers and technicians are expected to continue expanding rapidly in the next decade as well. Many of these occupations require college degrees but pay high wages and are currently in high demand. By connecting the dots, students and jobseekers looking to build a strong career should consider the Architecture and Engineering Services industry in Northeast Minnesota.

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