Will the decline in the number of jobs and the graying of the engineering workforce lead to shortages? It depends on who you ask. For all that’s going on at NAB 2012, click here.
Broadcast engineers are aging and the number of available jobs is falling. Those are givens.
But whether there’ll be a severe shortage of engineers or the profession will experience a comeback of sorts is up for debate.
That debate was explored Monday at two back-to-back NAB sessions on employment opportunities for broadcast engineers, presented by John L. Poray, executive director of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, and Fred Baumgartner, trustee for the SBE’s Ennes Educational Foundation Trust.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed in technical positions at radio and TV stations fell 13% between 1999 and 2008, from 25,570 to 22,200. The number of broadcasting establishments fell 5% from 2001 to 2011 to 9,739.
These drops resulted in the ongoing aftermath of deregulation beginning in the 1980s, Poray said. Consolidation among media companies and technical innovation also contributed.
When there are jobs, employers are seeking candidates with broader skills, like an IT background, Poray said. And even broadcast engineering jobs aren’t always filled, especially at smaller stations that may struggle to get broadcast engineers to move to their remote markets, Poray said.
As the number of engineers have dropped, those still in the business are aging. In 2001, approximately 28% of members were between 35 and 46. The greatest percentage — 35.4% — was made up of members between 46 and 55.
Flash forward to 2011, and the number of 56-65 year-old members has nearly doubled, making up 33.1% of membership, while the 36-45 group has essentially been cut in half, making up 14.1% of membership. The percentage that are 46-55 is about the same at 32.1%. In that decade span, the average age of an SBE member increased from 49.9 to 53.9, Poray said.
Given all of these factors, Poray predicted that an insufficient number of engineers could be coming in a decade’s time, if not sooner.
But Baumgartner, in his presentation, said he didn’t believe a shortage would cause significant problems. “I don’t think any real job will go unfilled at the end of the day,” Baumgartner said. “And the truth of the matter is that it is a supply and demand issue. If the demand is there, that brings the reward out and attracts more people to the industry. My point of view is that it’s kind of a self-curing problem.”
But the SBE is doing its part to try to avoid a problem in the first place. It has provided an increasing number of educational opportunities within the past three years, including online courses and webinars, for new broadcast engineers and for those in need of technical refreshers.
“It’s safe to say that in any case engineers have to adapt, to keep up on technology, to fill positions in the future,” he said.
For all that’s going on at NAB 2012, click here.