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Financial Help for Automation Professionals

As the recession takes its toll on the manufacturing industries, various organizations are stepping up to provide aid or services to unemployed or financially strapped engineers.

It’s a sign of the times. In today’s recessionary environment, more organizations are reaching out to provide help to unemployed or financially stressed automation professionals.

The International Society of Automation (ISA, got into the act recently, for example, by announcing that it is granting an extension of membership benefits to unemployed members. ISA members laid off after Jan. 1, 2009 have until March 31, 2010 to apply for the extension, which will last for up to nine months beyond the current “active grace” period that now exists for three months after a paid membership period has expired, the ISA says.

Other, for-profit companies are promoting their services as well, with an eye toward providing aid and encouragement to financially strapped engineers, while also helping their own businesses. Financial planning companies and recruitment firms provide two such examples.

Global Recruiting Source (GRS,, a Solon, Ohio-based recruiting firm that specializes in engineering and sales positions within the process control and automation industries, for instance, recently issued a press release aimed at baby boomers who are nearing retirement. While about a third of the full-time work force is expected to retire during the next five years, GRS says, the picture may not necessarily be grim for aging engineers who are looking to remain in the workforce.

Still working

According to Bureau of Labor statistics, the number of employed men 65 and older rose by 75 percent while employed women 65 and older increased by twice that much since 1977, GRS points out. The development is the result of many economic circumstances. The most glaring cause is the sagging economy. Workers aren’t ready to solely rely on pension plans and 401(k) plans with current stability at work. In fact, the majority of these employees do not have the financial means to retire.

Though some economists see many challenges with this trend, manufacturing employers may feel differently. Indeed, according to GRS, a growing number of companies recognize that older workers can bring a lot to the table that younger candidates might not provide, and many companies may feel safer hiring a knowledgeable 58-year-old applications engineer then a 22-year-old fresh out of college.

GRS says it has experienced this trend first hand. Defying the economic downturn, the recruiting firm recorded a record number of placements in 2008 with a not-so-surprising similarity. The average age of its placements has risen from 38 years of age to 44 years of age in one year. Though age 44 is far from retirement, the trend is still undeniable. According to GRS recruiter John Rachel, “there is no substitute for experience, and companies are doing whatever they can to recruit and retain it.”

Financial “engineering”

Nonetheless, some boomer engineers may be forced to retire early, and those who are able to keep working by choice may still need to get their financial houses in order. And for this group, Leon LaBrecque has some words of encouragement. “Engineers who are frozen regarding their finances need to know that the financial planning process, at its core, is identical to the five steps they use for their engineering design process. Once they understand this, they are on their way to building their ideal retirement plan,” says LaBrecque, who is managing partner and founder of LJPR LLC (, a Troy, Mich.-based fee-only financial planning firm that claims more than $300 million under management.

In a recent press release, LaBrecque says he is intimately involved in the automotive industry, specializin in working as a financial planner for the big-three auto workers. LaBrecque adds that he and his firm are regular participants in the field of automotive retirement and job transitions. LaBrecque’s White Paper, “Engineering Retirement: Application of the Engineering Design Process to Retirement Planning,” will be distributed by LJPR at the SAE 2009 World Congress, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, in Detroit, April 20-23.

“Creating and implementing a personal financial plan is an important aspect of an individual’s life, and the huge changes in the automotive industry have caused many engineers to lose focus of their overall financial plan,” says LaBrecque. “I am committed to showing these engineers how to apply the same five design principles they use daily in their jobs to their own financial situation. This will then provide them with a satisfying, safe retirement plan.”

LaBrecque lays out the five steps as follows:

• Identifying and Defining the Problem. When given a project, the first step an engineer takes is to identify and define the problem. “Similarly, financial planners start by determining a client’s, goals and objectives,” says LaBrecque. “Sitting down with a financial planner and defining these parameters will be the start to achieving one’s end result.”

• Researching and Defining Resources. The next step an engineer takes in their design process is to research and define the resources available to complete the project. “Likewise, the second step in a financial planner’s design process is to research and define the current resources available to the client for retirement,” continues LaBrecque. “The resources available generally consist of two basic components: net assets available for retirement, and income available for retirement savings.”

• Generating Multiple Solutions. Once an engineer defines available resources, he or she ends up with multiple solutions to the problem presented. “A good financial planner will also outline several solutions to the financial problem at hand and present the engineer with the wide range of solutions,” stresses LaBrecque.

• Analyzing and Selecting a Solution. Something engineers do incredibly well is analyzing and selecting an optimal solution to the problem they’ve been given; this is truly their sweet spot. They will then appreciate going through the same analytical process with their financial planner—together sifting through the solutions and, ultimately, deciding on the best overall plan.

• Implementing a Solution. Executing a solution gratifies everyone involved in the design process, especially the engineer. Equally, implementing a financial solution in the midst of the chaos surrounding the world these days will gratify everyone involved, especially the engineer.

A complete copy of LaBrecque’s White Paper can be downloaded here.

Global Recruiting Source

International Society of Automation


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