This is a guest post in our series looking at the future of 3D Printing. To celebrate 5 years of reporting on the 3D printing industry, we’ve invited industry leaders and 3D printing experts to give us their perspective and predictions for the next 5 years and insight into trends in additive manufacturing.

Nick Pearce is a director at Alexander Daniels Global. Alexander Daniels Global are a specialist recruitment company working in additive manufacturing with a mission,”to enable the industrial revolution in Additive Manufacturing through talent.”

The war for additive manufacturing talent by Nick Pearce

2016 will be remembered in the Additive Manufacturing market for many things but it also marked a new era for Talent. With lots new entrants and an expanding and changing value chain the ‘AM War for Talent’ began! A war that in my opinion will rage on for at least the next five years and more likely the next ten.

True competitive advantage will be gained by those businesses that are able to recruit, train and retain the limited, and increasingly demanded, talent pool, with the skills and experience to achieve success in AM. Now competing on the same field as the early innovators in the sector are global giants though, with far deeper pockets, far better developed recruitment capabilities and much greater capacity to attract and retain the highest calibre professionals.

Demand increasing during the next 12 months

A recent survey we completed in Alexander Daniels Global highlighted that 100% of companies are ‘Likely’ or ‘Extremely Likely’ to increase headcount related to AM within the next 12 months. Key drivers of this demand include growth of the industry, growth of the company, development of new products or applications and the need for new and different skills within the organisation. The demand for talent is growing in line with the industry and that is projected to continue well beyond the next ten years. Add to this the fact that 74% of professionals in AM are ‘Likely’, ‘Very Likely’, or ‘Extremely Likely’ to change roles in the next 12 months,  and it presents a huge challenge to all companies.

Alexander Daniels Global stats

3 Key Gaps in the 3D Printing Industry

Materials Science a hugely important skill

Materials Science is and will continue to be a hugely important skill required for all parties within the AM value chain. The 3D Printer OEM’s require materials knowledge to continue to advance their hardware capability. It is also essential to the chemical companies developing 3D Printable Materials. Finally it is important for the adopters of AM technology to help aid new product development. As such I see professionals with a Materials Science and Metallurgy background as central to the future advancement of the industry and amongst the most highly sought after, especially those with knowledge of AM processes and technologies.

Service Engineers and Machine Operators wanted

As new technologies enter the market and the number of machines in use grows there is a sharpening demand for skilled operators and service engineers capable of running and maintaining them. While the skill set is slightly different for both profiles the background and experience is largely similar. The requirements for these types of professionals are seen by both the 3D Printer OEM’s, Value Adding Resellers who also provide service and the adopters, who require operators and technicians to ensure machines are productive and downtime is minimised.

The need for experienced software developers

Not specific to the AM industry, but a problem nevertheless, relates to the need for software developers. Increasingly critical to the success of AM is the software that sits across the whole manufacturing process from design to production. Where AM is a comparatively sexy industry in the wider engineering world, there are far more options for experienced software developers. Attracting them into the industry and retaining them is a problem the 3D Printer OEM’s and large software providers will continue to face as production becomes increasingly digital.

Alexander Daniels Global stats 2

How to win the war

It is clear that there will be winners and losers in the war for talent. Here are my four top tips for companies that want to give themselves the best chance of success.

Human Resources must be strategic

HR professionals should be integrated into strategic planning for the organisation and understand the current and future skill requirements of the business. Talent Management and Acquisition should be the number one priority for the management team.

Plan your current and future workforce

Skills required tomorrow will be different from those required today. Understanding the needs and building internal capability and succession planning will reduce the need for external hiring. However, external hiring should not be reactionary and talent pooling should be done well in advance of the need arising in the organisation.

You need to be an agile organisation

Existing pay structures and job titles do not apply in a market that is growing exponentially. If your organisation is not flexible due to existing structures you will fail to recruit and retain the best talent.

Implement market competitive salaries

Money is not an intrinsic motivator but will act to demotivate where it is not in line with the market and expectations of the individual. In an industry that is growing where there is scarcity of talent you have to benchmark your salaries against the wider market on a regular basis and make changes to your structure to allow increases before it becomes a problem.

This is a guest post in our series looking at the future of 3D Printing, if you’d like to participate in this series then contact us for more information. For more insights into the 3D printing industry, sign up to our newsletter and follow our active social media channels. Let us know your thoughts about this perspective on the future of 3D printing in the comments below.

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