American manufacturers now post more jobs for software developers than production workers, a sign that the products we make—and the methods used to make them—are increasingly driven by computer programming.

As the “Internet of Things” and other computer-driven technologies raise the level in sophistication and connectivity in products, software skills have become highly prized by employers. In fact, in the manufacturing sector software developers are now second only to sales positions in terms of the total number of jobs posted.

OccupationTotal Postings in 2016Average Time to Fill
Sales Representative84,11443 days
Software Developer / Engineer55,89748
Production Worker54,46432
Mechanical Engineer44,58345
Laborer / Warehouse Worker44,14531
Manufacturing Machine Operator36,42733
Business Development / Sales Manager33,06544
Production Supervisor28,70138
Maintenance Technician28,12538
Manufacturing Engineer25,12442

A dramatic shift in job postings in the auto industry provides a useful illustration of this trend. Most of the vital functions in cars are now computer-controlled, and as a result automobiles have become more reliable and fuel-efficient—and more dependent on software. In 2016, Motor Vehicle Manufacturers and Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers posted twice as many positions for Software Developers as Mechanical Engineers. What is even more telling is that, as recently as 2012, postings were evenly distributed between the two jobs. To look at it another way, auto manufacturers’ demand for Software Developers has grown more than six-fold over demand for Mechanical Engineers over the past five years.
 Software Developers/EngineersMechanical Engineers
20163,9801,831
20121,2971,281

While more people are still employed as mechanical engineers in auto manufacturing, this explosion in demand for software developers could represent a leading indicator of the future shape of an industry. It is also worth noting that manufacturers struggle to fill these positions – even more than other employers. It takes auto industry employers 48 days to fill a software developer job, compared to 45 days across all industries.

This disparity may partly be a function of geography. Burning Glass analysis shows that, while software development postings are significantly concentrated on the West Coast and in the Northeast, production jobs remain concentrated in the Midwest and South. As such, the majority of software workers are located in regions far from most manufacturing hotspots. This forces manufacturers to recruit software talent from outside their traditional recruitment bases.

As manufacturers shift more and more of their hiring to harder-to-fill software jobs, it is also changing the overall issues they confront in sourcing talent. The 48 days it takes auto manufacturers to source Software Engineers is 50% longer than the 32 days it takes them to fill jobs for Production Workers, or 33 days to fill Manufacturing Machine Operators.

Those numbers bear out a broader trend bedeviling manufacturing: the demand is for skilled workers, not traditional assembly line workers, and those skilled workers are in shorter supply. Based on analysis of data from both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Burning Glass, there are 16 general production workers for each vacancy, but the ratio for skilled production workers is only 7-to-1. In certain specialties, such as avionics technicians and CNC programmers, the ratio drops to 5-to-1. Those are not skills that can be picked up overnight, so employers will likely need to consider how they develop talent and partner with training institutions to come up with a long-term fix.

 

Manufacturing shift: Only two states have high concentrations of openings for both software developers and production workers

Only two states, Connecticut and Oregon, have high concentrations of openings for both software developers and production workers.

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