For Experts, the Future Looks Bright

Text: Thomas Masuch

With the expanding AM industry essentially hiring everyone it can find, employees are in an ideal position to find interesting jobs at rising wages. For the industry itself, however, the shortage of qualified workers represents a real challenge.

While technological innovations have dominated the agendas of many companies in the additive industry in recent years, the focus has since shifted to include another subject: attracting qualified employees. Any organization looking to grow needs to bring the right people on board, which is why such efforts continue to gain importance throughout the sector.

»Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Additive Manufacturing is basically zero,« reports Nick Pearce, director of Alexander Daniels Global, an employee recruiting company that specializes in the industry. This might sound like a utopian jobs report from some socialist regime, but it is indeed the reality material providers and manufacturers of laser sintering machines currently face. 

Universities and companies alike have already begun responding to this shortage in specialized personnel. Additive Manufacturing is now being integrated into traditional study programs in engineering, for example and some firms have established their own training academies in this field.

In addition, certified advance training programs have emerged in Germany at institutions like LZH Laser Akademie (Hanover) or the Schmalkalden University of Applied Sciences. According to Pearce, however, these developments are not enough to meet the rampant demand for qualified hires in an industry witnessing exponential growth.



"The challenge for companies lies in training employees or imparting the required expertise to personnel from other industries in the next five to 10 years."

»The battle for talent in additive manufacturing«

In a sweeping study of the AM industry, Alexander Daniels Global recently examined the current trends and challenges companies face in vying for talented employees. The firm surveyed more than 100 such organizations and examined over 4,000 positions across the entire spectrum of additive industries, including machine and material manufacturers, software providers, and users. All of the companies surveyed indicated that they were planning to expand their workforce in 2017.

Meanwhile, the study identified the strongest demand in sales, application technology, and service. »The core issues in the industry are costs, speed, repeatability, and the availability of materials,« Pearce reveals. That said, qualified personnel with the necessary knowledge and experience is the area where he has noticed a significant gap between supply and demand.

This is why Pearce believes offering better conditions or higher salaries than the competition is key in the battle for talent. At the same time, retaining employees and enabling them to advance their skills is also becoming more important. Pearce thus maintains that the challenge for companies lies in »training employees or imparting the required expertise to personnel from other industries in the next five to 10 years«.

International groups turning up the heat in the labor market

The recent forays of corporations like GE, HP, and BASF have had a considerable impact on the global market for AM specialists. While the market was dictated by Stratasys, 3D Systems, EOS, and other industry staples up until 2015, the involvement of HP and GE in particular has changed the landscape. »HP and GE have the brand profile and the resources to attract the industry’s best minds,« Pearce explains. As a result, he expects that startups and previous players will find it increasingly difficult to acquire the personnel they need to fulfill their plans for further business expansion. 

The realm of politics has also taken note of the labor shortage issues in Additive Manufacturing and their potential to hinder the industry’s continued growth. Along with the latest technical advancements, the subject of personnel was a prominent one at Additive Manufacturing European Forum 2016, an event supported by the European Union.  

»Wages expected to rise for the next five years«

From an AM employee’s perspective, on the other hand, the future looks bright indeed. In addition to intriguing opportunities for advancement, this is particularly apparent in the salaries on offer in the industry. Most of the companies surveyed by Alexander Daniels Global predicted that wages will trend upward in the coming 12 months. Pearce even believes that »salaries will continue to rise for the next five years, while the number of available trainees will remain limited«.

Although the industry is now highly interconnected around the world, there are still stark differences in income among individual regions. According to the study, a service manager with five to 10 years of experience in Europe earns around €65,000 per year. Corresponding salaries in the Asia-Pacific region are only slightly below that level, but experienced service managers in the United States can expect to take home €83,000 on average – a difference of nearly 30%. The disparity is even greater in sales, where U.S. wages can outstrip those paid in Europe by 50% or more.

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