Reliability Workforce

Reliability Engineers in Short Supply

Klaus M. Blache | October 1, 2021

The future of labor depends on millennials. Work now to create a team of veteran employees sharing skills and insights with, and learning from, the younger generation of professionals.

Reliability engineers and managers have always been difficult to find/recruit and it won’t get any easier.

Recently, a medium-sized Florida city listed more than 100 open reliability positions. LinkedIn indicated more than 147,000 site reliability engineering jobs available, and ZipRecruiter showed more than 235,000 openings.

Future reliability engineers will need to know more about how to integrate reliability and maintenance processes into Manufacturing 4.0. That means knowing more about sensors, 3-D printing, data collection and analytics, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning, artificial intelligence, mobile devices, wearable technology, more-intelligent and mobile robotics, augmented reality, and digital twins.

The workforce will primarily be millennials who are looking for a different type of employment than in the past. These “digital natives” are comfortable with technology and consider it to be an integral and necessary part of their lives. “Millennials view the workplace through the same lens of new technology as any other aspect of their lives: instant, open, and limitless. The era they have grown up in has shown them that nothing is a guarantee. Instability and rapid change are the norm. To millennials, time no longer equals money. It is a limited resource to be spent wisely and actively managed,” (3 things millennials want in a career (hint: it’s not more money), Fortune magazine).

Most don’t see themselves working at a company 30 to 40 years and retiring. What they can achieve today will be much more attractive than long-term benefits because the industry dynamic is changing too quickly to offer stability. It’s about flexible work hours, a “teach me now” mindset (so I can be ready for my next opportunity/challenge) and, “Am I working on something that matters?”

I don’t suggest that millennials don’t put in the required time. According to TeamStage (16+ Millennials in the Workplace Statistics for 2021), “Despite stereotypes endorsed by older generations, millennials are one of the hardest working generations. Over a quarter of them work two or more jobs. The number of weekly working hours is also astonishing for this generation, with 73% working more than 40 hours per week, and almost 25% working more than 50 hours.”

A reliability engineer will still be responsible for a range of functions including improving and maintaining assets; minimizing risk; managing the change to a “proactive maintenance” mindset; developing partnership with operations, engineering, and maintenance; and using condition-monitoring methodologies and tools. To be successful, what you do/offer to recruit and retain the future workforce must be different from today. The best reliability team should be made up of baby boomers sharing their experiences and millennials integrating technologies and offering new ideas. EP

Based in Knoxville, Dr. Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at


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