Solving the talent shortage in Field Service Engineers in Southeast Asia

Solving the talent shortage in Field Service Engineers in Southeast Asia

Manufacturing companies in the Southeast Asia region are facing a significant challenge: the widening skills gaps. Despite their remarkable growth, these companies are facing a shortage of skilled workforce, especially for service technicians and engineers. This scarcity of talent poses a daunting task for Service Managers who must find ways to sustain the industry's growth despite the talent shortage. 

Factors Contributing to the field service engineer shortage in Southeast Asia

1. An aging workforce:  According to World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN), 4 Southeast Asian countries – Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia are already "aging societies", meaning that over-65s make up between 7% and 14% of the population. Service engineers and technicians are especially impacted by this phenomenon: Senior engineers who have been in the field for decades have developed expertise that new and inexperienced workers cannot easily replace. 

2. A Shrinking talent pool due to the post-pandemic recovery:  According to World Economic Forum, the Manufacturing sector accounts for 21% of ASEAN GDP and is expected to double to $1.4 trillion by 2028. The main sectors impacted by the recovery growth are as follows: 

  • Food processing and manufacturing  (Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand)
  • Electronics (Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore)
  • Textiles/apparel (Vietnam, Philippines)
  • Automotive (Thailand, Indonesia)
  • Petrochemical products (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia)
With the recovery accelerating, the demand for Service engineers will become significantly higher than the number of jobs available. Part of this trend results from the aging field service workforce mentioned above, as well as fewer younger workers entering the skilled trades. 

How to navigate the service engineer talent shortage?  

Huneety performed an analysis of the service engineers's skills and mobility by analyzing thousands of job descriptions in Southeast Asia. The insights aim at providing actionable recommendations and modern hiring practices for the recruitment of service engineers in the region.

To support the analysis, we took the example of a service engineer job position in the food processing industry: one of the most impacted role by the talent shortage in the years to come. 

I. Understand the skills required to become a field service engineer (food processing industry)

Customer Experience (CX)
Customer Contact
Customer Satisfaction
Customer Support
Customer Service
Complaint Management
Customer Service
Maintenance & Repair
Electrical Repairs
Hydraulic system repair
Maintenance equipment
Mechanical Repair
Preventive Maintenance
Microsoft Office
Microsoft Excel
Problem solving
Identifying and anticipating problems
Making fact based decisions to solve problems
Working towards resolution
Working with others to solve problems
Self awareness & Self Management
Being punctual
Being reliable
Self motivation, self confidence and wellness

Hiring Tips for Recruiters: 

  • Map the skills of each job using up-to-date skills data 
  • Share insights with Line Managers so they can understand the skills required: for both soft and hard skills. 

II. Consider overlapping industries to find qualified talents 

Focusing your recruitment search on a single industry limits your reach in the labor market.  Exploring overlapping industries widens the talent pool, increasing the chances of finding qualified candidates. 

Exploring overlapping industries for talent acquisition can bring diverse skills, fresh perspectives, and a competitive advantage to companies. Companies that are considering candidates from overlapping industries are able to broaden their talent pool, enhance innovation, and promote adaptability. This approach allows companies to tap into a diverse talent base and = discover hidden gems with the right approach. 

The following interactive graph presents the porosity of each industry regarding Service engineers hiring : 

To successfully hire beyond the usual talent pool of the food processing industry, companies should consider hiring from other industries, presenting qualified candidates with transferable skills. 

Hiring tips for recruiters : 

  • Train hiring managers about the benefits of considering talents across industries 
  • Remove industry-specific knowledge from your job descriptions 
  • Map the industries that offer equal skilled talents
  • Search across overlapping industries to find qualified talents

III. Hire for transferable skills

Candidates with transferable skills can apply their abilities to different jobs or industries. Transferable skills are like special abilities that you can carry with you from one job to another, regardless of the specific tasks or duties. This approach widens the pool of potential hires and allows recruiters to identify individuals who can quickly adapt to new environments, learn new tasks, and bring fresh perspectives to the team. 

The interactive chart above highlights the transferable skills of the service engineer. 

Hiring Tips for Recruiters: 

  • Adopt a skills-based recruitment process by mapping the key mandatory skills required for the job. 
  • Focus hiring on transferable skills, considering both hard skills and soft skills. 
  • Make soft skills your priority and conduct behavioral interviews
  • Prepare industry-specific onboarding programs according to your industry-specific hard skills. 

Learn more about Soft skills in recruitment

IV. Consider similar job titles, regardless of seniority

Hiring for the exact job title may not be sufficient in a tight labor market. As each organization has its own "job title vocabulary" depending on its business perspective and context, searching based on exact title will significantly limit the results. 

When it comes to hiring service engineers, there is a multitude of synonyms recruiters could choose from in order to expand the recruitment search. 

Above is the most common job title when it comes to the search for Field service engineers. 

Hiring Tips for recruiters : 

  • Erase seniority levels in your job description
  • Program your Recruitment system to automatically spot potential matching candidates according to synonym titles 
  • Include synonym search in your Boolean keywords searches 

V. Understand what it takes to become a service engineer

Too less companies are looking for the exact "copy" candidates for the job. The truth is, candidates who are already occupying this job are likely to seek for a career progression rather than leaving their current employer for an equivalent role. 

Exploring all talent pools also means considering the mobility factor in your candidate search and selection process. This means looking for candidates who are on the brink to take over the role you are looking for, and who can fully qualify as a service engineer as a career progression. Such candidates can come from your internal talent pool (recommended), or searched for on the local labor market. 

Above are the job titles of candidates who have grown to the position of service engineer have occupied the following job positions 

Hiring Tips for Recruiters: 

  • Train managers about providing a clear career path and orientation programs to grow new hires into the new career path
  • Pool previous candidates with the job titles listed above and engage them regularly
  • Include the most occurring previous roles in your recruitment search 

Start Hiring service engineers 

Huneety is Southeast Asia Talent sourcing platform connecting talents to opportunities. We help organizations navigate talent shortages by creating new talent pools of qualified applicants. With Huneety you can quickly find, assess, and select the right talents according to your unique skills, behaviors, and cultural fit requirements.

Contact us for a free consultation