3D Printing is booming, what does it mean for Job Seekers?

State of the Art of the 3D Printing Job Market seen by a recruitment entrepreneur

Even though, the manufacturing industry currently advocates automation at all levels, people remain the most valuable asset of companies. As far as additive manufacturing is concerned, in many ways, the technology has been acknowledged as a disruptive technology. The sector is really booming. Research firms such as Markets and Markets expect it to be worth $32.78 billion by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 25.76 percent. With that growth comes money and demand for skilled workers to control these sophisticated devices. So, what does it really mean for job seekers and for employers?

This Opinion of the Week aims to bring a State of the Art of the 3D Printing Job Market. What niche businesses are currently taking shape in the industry? Who are the people working in AM? What can we expect from the 3D Printing job market? Which profiles are in demand?

Niche businesses

With market maturity, new niche businesses are taking shape, such as employee recruitment services. In addition to mainstream job platforms like Jooble, several companies have made recruitment in 3D printing their core business: 3D Alliances, Gravity 3D, 3ecruit and Alexander Daniels Global.

In fact, to address this issue, we have asked Alexander Daniels Global a few questions. The company is part of a bigger recruitment group Alexander Daniels, and works with companies who are at the forefront of emerging technologies.

Let’s make it clear now: Nick Pearce, the founder and Director of Alexander Daniels Global, is neither an engineer, nor a physicist. He is a recruitment entrepreneur. He did not know anything about 3D Printing until 2015, when he read the story of Stephen Power who had suffered severe facial disfigurement after a motorbike accident. Luckily, thanks to advances in AM, experts created molds on which surgeons could practice an operation to implant new cheek bones. Additive manufacturing was leveraged to build the patient’s cheek bones so that they easily fit into the structure of his face.

Reading this story has resulted in a long research period for Nick Pearce. As per his words, “what we identified over a period of nine months, was that this was an industry that was growing rapidly, over 30% year on year growth, but it had a lot of challenges; the technology itself was a challenge, the speed, the repeatability, the quality, the availability of materials, the cost, were all challenges. But after nine months’ worth of research, the major challenge that the industry faced was skills.”

That’s exactly where Alexander Daniels Global comes into play. Today, the company has broadened its employment sectors to a wide range of fields in the industry. With offices in Birmingham (UK), Barcelona (Spain), Detroit (United States) and Berlin (Germany), Alexander Daniels Global recruits all over the world by supporting clients that operate in EMEA, APAC, LATAM and North America.

We believed that additive manufacturing will change people’s lives. And we wanted to be a part of that. So, we brought together a group of passionate people, enthusiastic about technology, around a clear mission. And that was to enable this revolution, that was taking place in additive and advanced manufacturing, through talent”, said Pearce.

Who are therefore the people working in AM?

According to Sculpteo, only 5% of 1300 professionals gained their knowledge of 3D printing from formal education and almost 60% learned on the job. The industry is suffering from a skills gap.

According to experts, there is a lack of skilled workers in 3 areas of competences:

  • 3D Design and CAD Modeling

Design is the primary step required to take a product idea and translate it into something that can be brought to life. That’s the reason why there is an increasing launch of lessons on Design for AM or “Design for AM” challenges. In the medical industry for instance, where technology is increasingly harnessed to save lives, there is a crucial need for engineers and designers who have a biomedical or scientific background to further innovate and produce highly advanced 3D-printed products.

This lack of skilled workers inevitably raises the question of education that we will not address in this article.

  • In-house experts

A beverage company or a shoes brand can rely on the capabilities of a 3D printer in-house. Whatever the company is, one of its employees necessarily has to know something about it.

  • Operations and administrative positions

Running an AM company does not only require engineers and technical people. It also requires a certain mindset and the ability to lead people.

According to Pearce, the most in-demand roles, globally, are application engineers, service professionals and technical sales roles.

Application Engineers: The AM industry is ever evolving, and new technologies and applications spur every week. With the vast and almost incomprehensible amount of applications, the industry has started to realize that it needs to help people understand the exact capabilities and limitations of the machines and tools. A lack of thorough understanding of the technology and its applications, additive manufacturing will never move beyond fad status. Because of this realization, AM OEM’s are increasingly focused on hiring application engineers to support their customers in either using the technology or understanding its capabilities. More specifically, metal applications experience is highly sought after.

Service Professionals: Companies are also increasingly demanding service professionals to assist their customers in taking full advantage of machines and software and to keep the machines functional.

Technical Sales: Additionally, companies are ramping up their technical sales and marketing efforts in order to improve the sales experience for customers, providing a solutions-based process. Specifically, there is an increasing demand for sales professionals with experience within hardware, software and materials.”

AM is harnessed in a wide range of sectors (aerospace, automotive, medical, industry, etc.). Which sector of activity recruits the most?

Job seekers have a wide range of choices when it comes to their next challenge. The aerospace sector might be trendy but for the recruitment entrepreneur, AM is growing in all sectors.

There is no one sector that is actively recruiting more than another. The aerospace industry certainly led a lot of growth as the AM technology has been extensively used in R&D and product development. Moreover, in the past 12 months, the automotive industry has seen an increase of applications of the technology, which is being applied at a production level”, explains Pearce.

A closer look at Alexander Daniels Global

What do you receive the most: Permanent contracts, fixed-term contracts, freelance jobs or internships?

We receive permanent contracts to recruit, almost exclusively. The industry is still growing and therefore a lot of the positions we recruit are results of growth. There is not really a fixed term contract market as there is a lack of talent so candidates will take the permanent jobs on offer over the insecurity of a fixed term contract. I do see this changing as the technology becomes more widely adopted and a contract/interim market will develop for skilled professionals to support project work and spikes in demand for skills.

When sending my request, I realized that people can reach out to you to request information about the Pilot Test, the Partnership Model or the Advanced Selection Model. What does each of these request mean?

These are the different recruitment models that we offer. We always strive to offer our clients a solution that suits their specific hiring needs the best, so our recruitment solutions are often bespoke and tailored to the client needs.

We want to be a talent partner for the AM companies and for the industry, to help drive the growth of the AM industry. Our contribution is talent and knowledge about the talent market. We truly believe that AM will help change people’s lives, and we work with that vision in mind.

How do you perceive the future of the 3D Printing labour market?

The additive manufacturing industry is growing at an incredible pace with new manufacturers, technologies and application being introduced almost weekly. This fast-paced growth brings with it a significant demand for new employees to join these expanding AM organisations. Moreover, existing firms are expanding and internationalizing their businesses and need professionals in the new regions they are establishing.

This development puts a significant strain on the talent market, as the pool of experienced additive manufacturing professionals is limited and is growing at a slower rate than the market demands. For this reason, there is a significant lack of available qualified professionals in the additive manufacturing industry.

Every year, this talent gap grows bigger as the industry continuously outgrows the talent market. In 2018, we published the first Additive Manufacturing Talent Market Whitepaper. This whitepaper thoroughly analyses the AM talent market, the in-demand roles and skills, and compares the demand for talent with the supply. In 2018, our analyses showed that for every job available, there were only 12 AM professionals globally who could potentially fill this job.

We are just now writing the 2019 edition of the Talent Market Whitepaper, and our analyses shows that this gap between demand and supply has increased to a 4.5:1 ratio (i.e. per 1 job, there are just around 4-5 AM professionals available to fill that job).

The gap between supply and demand will continue to worsen for the next three to five years. After this time academic qualifications that can be gained through universities and other sources of training and development will emerge to help bridge the skills gap. In fact, we have developed a spin off platform, i-AMdigital, solely with the purpose of doing just that. In its current form the platform offers individually tailored content to engage and inspire talent towards a career in additive manufacturing. It also provides a learning and development marketplace that curates courses from around the world to provide easy access to the skills and knowledge the industry really needs.

Any last words to add?

 The talent market for additive manufacturing is a dynamic and exciting one. Organisations that want to succeed and recruit the best talent need to think strategically but operate entrepreneurially. Above all, what really characterises talent who are successful in the industry is a clear passion for the technology. This would be the best piece of advice I can give to any company looking to hire; you can overlook whether somebody has the right skills, they can always be trained, however if they don’t have passion they will never learn and grow. Therefore, the number one thing I look for when hiring, even in my own organisation, is passion.

Corporate communication and marketing expert by training at 3D Adept, Kety is currently leading the publication’s editorial and content activities. She has a unique gift for knowing how to grab an audience's attention on insights that matter – in this case, everything related to additive manufacturing. She believes that a wide range of innovations still have to be discovered about the technologies that shape the world of tomorrow and she has made it her objective at 3D ADEPT Media.