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Field Application Engineers (FAEs) play a critical role in bridging the gap between tech support and sales. This skillset has become even more vital in recent years – increased market pressure means organisations must provide greater value to customers, while technology has become more complex, with customers wanting to be more informed. A well-informed go-between is essential.

Yet skilled FAEs are in short supply. The sector is facing a worsening skills shortage as older engineers begin to retire and the under-30s field application engineers become particularly hard to find. So why are FAEs becoming increasingly rare?

Mind the millennial gap

Post-recession, a lull in junior hiring in 2008 has led to a shortage of experienced FAEs in the present market. The financial crash meant job losses and hiring reductions for many businesses, and entry roles were the most commonly cut. This isn’t a singular occurrence; skills gaps tend to be cyclical. The industry responds to a talent gap by feeding the pipeline at university and junior level, which then slows down when businesses find themselves on the other side of a candidate driven market.

Rather than react to boom-and-bust cycles, organisations should consider a longer-term view when it comes to talent, and many do provide excellent learning and development programmes and opportunities. While this should ensure a bounty of talent further down the line, it does little to ease struggles in the current market.

Sellers remorse

Another effect of the recession was to shift the job requirements of FAEs, with businesses increasingly requiring them to act as salespeople. Although this has always been a component of an FAEs role, this has become such a big focus that many individuals are put off from ever entering the field.

Most FAEs move into the role because of an interest in tech and engineering, and not because they want to be salespeople. That doesn’t mean they won’t be excellent at sales, in fact the technical guidance aspect of the job often naturally leads to upselling skills, but we have seen organisations fail to attract candidates when they put too much emphasis on sales targets. The businesses that value tech and engineering knowledge above all else, while providing sales training and support will attract the very best field application engineers.

Vertical challenges

FAEs require engineering and/or technology backgrounds – skillsets that are currently very valuable to a variety of different organisations. Semiconductor businesses are having to battle not only with each other, but also against the likes of Google and Amazon for talent. The pay and benefits, alongside the ubiquity of the big brands is not an easy thing to challenge.

It’s not an impossibility, though, either. The number of IoT devices in 2020 is expected to have increased by 285 per cent since 2015 – meaning 38.5 billion devices. IoT, however, is still in its nascent stage and in order to progress beyond that it’s going to require huge innovation from the semiconductor industry. Combine that with developments in medtech, auotomotive, energy, manufacturing – the list goes on – and you have a boom of incredible opportunities for FAEs. Candidates working in engineering and technology are almost always interested in what’s new; organisations that are able to demonstrate their innovation are much more likely to attract more interest from the best FAEs.

Becoming a Field Application Engineer is a rewarding career move for those experienced in engineering and/or technology. There are boundless opportunities available for the right person – let us help you find them.

MRL finds the very best FAE roles in the semiconductor industry. Get in touch to find out how we can help with your job search.

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