The Electronics Conundrum
Emma van Opstal,
Consultant at Fellows and Associates, discusses the unusual conclusions that
could be drawn from the recent salary survey of the IP profession in relation
to anecdotal evidence from her experience of recruitment practice in the sector.
One question that comes up repeatedly in our daily
operations as an IP recruitment firm is that of the elusive electronics
candidate. Where are they hiding?
Pete Fellows, Managing Director of Fellows and Associates,
has previously written several articles detailing the shortage of electronics
candidates and the stark contrast with the abundance of opportunities in the
field. Of the current job openings in our portfolio, 40.4% are electronics jobs
across all levels of qualification ranging from Part Qualified to Partner, in
various locations. The results of our recent salary survey now shed some more
light on this issue.
The salary survey findings suggest that there is no shortage
of electronics attorneys, as a disproportionate percentage of respondents – 29%
– in the survey indicated that they specialise in electronics or physics. So
why are these attorneys so disinclined to look for new jobs?
Could it be that despite the high number of vacancies
advertised in the CIPA Journal and online, electronics attorneys are not aware
that they are in such high demand? Or perhaps the opposite: these attorneys are
so confident of their value that they apply to jobs directly without using a
recruiter? The latter option is easily discounted – from conversations with our
clients it appears they are having even more difficulty finding applicants than
we are, and their job openings are not getting filled.
Contrary to what one might expect in a situation of
shortage, average salaries for electronics patent attorneys are no higher than those
for attorneys in other technical specialisms. This is not entirely surprising
as current salaries will naturally lag behind market trends for supply and
demand, especially in a profession with a low staff turnover. However, market
conditions should be reflected in the expected salary increase for electronics
patent attorneys upon moving jobs. This is where the plot thickens: with the
electronics figure at 24.2%, the salary survey produced no evidence that
electronics attorneys are looking for significantly higher percentage increases
than the overall average of 24.8%.
Are electronics attorneys all just happy at their firms? Or
could it be they are simply too busy to look for new jobs and don’t have time
to reflect on their work environment?
As Pete mentions in his earlier articles, constant
innovation in the field of electronics means that there is always a lot of work
to be done, both for existing and new companies. This means that the ratio of
electronics attorneys to other specialisms should also be increasing, but the
patent profession is not equipped to grow at the same rate and will therefore
struggle to keep up with the demand for attorneys. On top of that, the boom in
production of electronic technologies has also meant that students graduating
from relevant university courses have had more job options than ever before. The
patent profession is relatively unknown to graduates, and with so much
competition from big name employers it is increasingly difficult to generate
interest from suitable potential applicants in training as a patent attorney.
Clients are now looking to us for increasingly creative
solutions to the continuing shortage of electronics attorneys. Some have given
us scope to actively attract candidates from other EU jurisdictions, while
others widen the net in terms of technical background, seniority level or job
location. While we believe these steps will go a long way in addressing the
problem, the electronics conundrum remains unsolved.
If you are an Electronics Patent Attorney and would like to help us solve our conundrum, get in touch via email@example.com.