Engineering Project Managers: gotta catch em all!


Organisations are increasingly focusing on making their processes as efficient as possible, but to succeed, having the right talent on board is key. The war for talent within engineering project management is raging. A great opportunity for these professionals looking for a new job, but a huge challenge for organisations looking to attract this talent, it appears. Jülide Tunali, Senior Manager within the Engineering division of international recruitment specialist Robert Walters, explains.

What does a Project Manager Engineering do?

Jülide: “A Project Manager Engineering is in fact the right hand of the Engineering & Maintenance Director within an organisation. He or she manages the development, implementation and evaluation of complex designs and processes of projects. The Project Manager Engineering is the leading person to oversee the research and development stage of each investment, enhancement project and the one who defines the budget, staff and equipment required to complete the project successfully. In large organisations there are multiple project managers, each with their own focus and speciality. Think for example of a project manager whose focus is to increase or speed up the company’s production line by investing in the right equipment: they will be responsible to overlook the investments linked to buying new machinery and put in place a preventive and curative maintenance scheme for the machinery, so production is not affected. Many production sites in Belgium haven’t done major investments since the 1960-1970s and need to be modernised. In organisations like these, it is important to have the right project manager in place to make the production site run as efficiently as possible and future-proof.”

What are the most critical skills Engineering Project Managers should have?

“Besides the technical basis that they have from their Master’s degree, these professionals need to be flexible and able to multitask,  in order to complete complex projects from A to Z. The Engineering Project Manager needs to have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as he or she will interact with both internal and external parties on a daily basis. Internally, they will work in close collaboration with their team members, but also with other stakeholders within the finance and procurement department for example. Externally, they will interact with engineering services companies to assist in matters like water treatment, energy, health and safety measures for example or machinery suppliers. In addition, the Project Manager Engineering needs to be able to set priorities and be persistent, particularly when overseeing complex and large projects. Knowing the team he or she works with and every individual within the team is key, in order to react quickly when problems occur”, says Jülide.

How is the current labour market for Project Managers within engineering?

“Really difficult”, according to Jülide. “Belgium is suffering from a real scarcity of engineering and maintenance project managers, particularly in Flanders. Booming industries for Engineering Project Managers are the healthcare, construction and chemicals sector, but also within the food industry the demand for qualified Engineering Project Managers is high. Not only do they need to have a strong technical background, they also need to be able to supervise and train a team and  strategically develop and run projects from A to Z.

There are plenty of open positions for Engineering Project Managers looking for a new challenge, but the majority of them is really picky. They pay high importance to the type and volume of projects they will lead, the company they will work for, the type of investments and the plans for the future the organisation has defined, and are less focused on the size of the team they will work with for example.

Organisations from their end, pay high importance to the language knowledge of the project managers they want to hire. Knowledge of the local language is vital to them, particularly because Engineering Project Managers work in close partnership with multiple departments in the organisation, so there can’t be any major language barriers. But the key to attract such scarce talent is to be open to international talent. This has to begin at university level already. Fortunately, we increasingly see foreign students coming to Belgium to complete their Master here. Some universities work in partnership with large organisations, enabling graduates to start their first job here, rather than returning to their home country. Organisations who do not implement this approach yet, should think about attracting foreign talent and invest in language courses. For Project Managers interested in developing their career in Belgium, we would advise them to investigate which international players offer training programmes they can benefit from, as well as learning the local language. This will maximise their chances of building a rewarding and long-term career in Belgium.

Has the Covid-19 pandemic had an influence on the demand for Engineering Project Managers?

Jülide: “Definitely. 2020 started off really well with a high demand for this type of Project Managers. Right after the first lockdown in March last year, we say a slight decrease, but since the beginning of this year, the need for Engineering Project Managers is peaking again. This is mainly because organisations are investigating how they can make their processes run efficiently in order to create a higher ROI. Engineering and Maintenance Directors are going through a difficult period now, and are even working on the operational side. They are in desperate need of an extra pair of hands to support them. Hiring the right Engineering Project Manager who will strategically think along with the business and manage a team of operational people to realise these goals, helps organisations move forward in today’s turbulent times. Global organisations are joining forces to bring efficiency in  each country and in every department. For strategic thinkers eager to gain international exposure and make an impact both globally and locally, now is a great time to shop around for a new opportunity.”

What is the salary range for Project Managers Engineering?

“Junior Engineering Project Managers with 3-6 years of experience can count on a gross annual salary of 65-85k EUR. Those with 6-10 years of experience earn up to 95k EUR and professionals with a proven track record of more than 10 years rely on a gross annual salary of 150k EUR. In most cases, this salary comes with a company car and a bonus, an insurance package, mobile phone and luncheon vouchers”, explains Jülide.

Find out more?

Check out our latest vacancies in project management. Looking to recruit an Engineering Project Manager? Contact our team of consultants or upload your vacancy.

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