During the communist regime, given the boom in forced industrialization, engineering became the most sought after profession. Admission to the polytechnic institutes entailed a fierce competition, encouraged by the regime. Most young people thirsting for knowledge dreamt of becoming engineers in areas ranging from the oil and steel industry to machine-building and petrochemistry. The profession brought along social prestige and fairly high incomes for that time.
After the 1989 revolution, when a large part of the Communist industrial sectors went bankrupt, engineering ceased to be a profession of interest to young people. The IT component, however, has developed, and Romanians have, for a long time now, been recognized as specialists in the field. But even in this post-industrial age, centered on services, technological inventiveness is needed in all fields, and that can only be provided by engineers, as economic analyst Petrisor Peiu, an academic with the Polytechnic University of Bucharest pointed out:
"There is a general need for engineers. Starting out from the requirements of Romania's economic development, a deficit of 150,000-200,000 engineers is estimated. In order to develop products with a high added value, you need highly skilled people. So, you need engineers in all fields where such products are manufactured, in electronics, electrical engineering, telecommunications, optics or precision mechanics. Even the car-making industry needs other categories of engineers than those operating on the labour market today. In a nutshell, you need people who can produce technology."
Therefore, there is a big gap between companies' need and demand and what the labour market can provide, which all human resources specialists have noticed, as Florin Godean, the president of the Romanian Association of Temporary Employment Agency told us:
"The economy has been on the rise for a few years now and that is why the demand for skilled labour force has been directly linked with this growth. The car making industry has registered one of the highest growth rates in Romania. Therefore, in this field the demand for labour force is high, particularly in cities other than Bucharest, where the demand is mostly for logistics. Besides that, telecommunications engineers are in high demand, in Bucharest in particular."
Petrisor Peiu believes that there are other economic sectors that also lack qualified human resources:
"We don't have engineers able to draw up and carry out highly complex projects in terms of technology and engineering. For instance, overpasses or bridges over the Danube can no longer be built with Romanian resources only. That is why we need foreign companies. We lack specialists able to coordinate and create technology for such complex projects. It is the same with hydro-power dams and the big companies producing thermoelectric and nuclear power. They can no longer be designed and built with domestic labor force."
Why do we find ourselves in this situation? Firstly, because the Romanian school can only form around 50 thousand experts in the field. Secondly, because the experts' exodus started in 1990 and it has continued to this day, at the same pace. It is estimated that almost 25% of the students who graduate from Romanian technical universities do not work a single day in Romania, as they leave to work abroad right after graduation. Moreover, there are fears that the labor force market for engineers is insufficiently developed and that students graduating from technical schools need to retrain, which is not true, according to Petrisor Peiu:
"If we refer to electronics, telecommunications, electrotechnics and transports, these are sectors in high need of qualified labor force, so the risk of not finding a job is very low. I do not know any cases of graduates of the Bucharest Polytechnic University who are unemployed or who cannot find a job in the field they were trained for."
But how do employers deal with the insufficient number of engineers? Florin Godean attempted an answer:
"If we refer to construction and car manufacturing, employers are a lot less demanding when it comes to employees' professional training and skills. Also, there are employers who, although they offer good salaries, still have problems in finding enough labor force. Given the increase in the labour force costs, they choose to weight down production, which impacts economy as a whole."
The solution can only come from the education system that should be better adjusted to the needs of the labor market.