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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey 5— Supply and Demand of Human Factors Specialists In this chapter the panel assesses the state of balance between supply and demand for human factors specialists in general and makes forecasts concerning the potential growth in demand or supply in the predictable future. A principal assumption of the sponsors of this study was that the demand for human factors specialists may well be growing in excess of supply as a result of recent pressure by the Defense Department on the military and industry to incorporate human factors into the design and acquisition of systems. While projected growth in demand is, in fact, greatest in the military aerospace domain, the demand projected for human factors specialists in other areas of activity is significant as well. SUPPLY We define supply in terms of the number of people currently working in the human factors field and the number of people expected to be available in the near future. In addition to the survey of human factors specialists, two additional sources of supply data were considered. First, the survey of graduate human factors programs (see Appendix B) queried universities to determine how many students graduated from human factors programs during 1988–1989, the number of students entering in fall 1988, and the percentage of students who have dropped out. A second source of supply data was the Human Factors Society membership for a 33-year period. On the basis of the human factors specialists and supervisors survey data, it is possible to estimate the population of people who would report either that their position is primarily concerned with human factors or that
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey they do human factors work. This was done by first establishing the number who were sampled and the proportion of these people who responded positively to the questions about their involvement and thereby became survey participants. This proportion was then multiplied by the total number in each population that was sampled and then the resultant numbers were summed over all the populations sampled. This procedure yields the overall estimate of 9,100 human factors specialists or 2.33 times 3,904, the 1989 membership of the Human Factors Society. The method of calculation, based on the best available data, is likely to be biased conservatively. There could be as many as 10,000 specialists, but it is unlikely that there are as many as 15,000. In order to extrapolate this number into the future, we made the assumption that this growth in supply will continue to parallel the average growth in the Human Factors Society over its lifetime, when extrapolated linearly. Net growth in the society's membership since its founding in 1958 has been 188 members per year, on the average. Using the same proportion to extrapolate to the growth in the supply of specialists yields an estimate of 275 per year added to the field (Table 5.1). On one hand, these numbers are not quite an estimate of supply because they are driven, in part, by available jobs; and, as was indicated earlier, nearly 37 percent of those represented in the survey moved from a job not primarily involving human factors to one that did. These are likely to be people who did not obtain their training in formal human factors graduate programs. On the other hand, it is not quite demand because, as we will see, open positions remain. Furthermore, it does not consider possible changes in the traditional base rate as a result of new Defense Department interest in design for the user. Nor does it consider the possible changes in military procurement as a result of normalized East-West relations or Middle East crises. It is best described as the expected state of equilibrium between supply and demand, given the status quo. The data in the table suggest that we can expect approximately 275 more TABLE 5.1 Estimated Growth in Number of Human Factors Specialists Time Period Human Factors Society Membership Estimated Total 1989 3,904 9,100 1991 4,140 9,646 1993 4,376 10,196 1995 4,612 10,745
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey human factors specialists to be working in the field each year. To achieve this number, we must add enough new people to the pool to make up for those that are leaving the field as well. One survey question addressed this issue. When asked if they will continue to be primarily involved with human' factors in the next five years, 86 percent overall said yes. The only areas of work reporting lower percentages were industrial processes (79 percent) and consumer products (61 percent). Of the 14 percent expecting to leave the field, 7.2 percent indicated that they were leaving to move into management or research, to retire or to pursue further education—goals that do not reflect on the viability of the profession. Only 4.5 percent indicated that they planned to change fields. If we take 14 percent multiplied by the estimated population of human factors workers and divide by 5, assuming these people will leave the field uniformly over the next 5 years, we can expect to lose 255 people each year. The addition of 255 that are expected to leave the field would bring the total coming into the field to 530. Where do they come from? Some come from the recognized human factors graduate programs. Our survey revealed that the 49 responding programs graduated an estimated total of 245 with master's degrees and 127 with doctorates in 1988-1989, for a total of 372. If 37 percent of the people enter the field from sources other then recognized human factors graduate programs, then the number entering the field can be estimated at 590, a number that should be compared with the 530 above. Given the divergent ways these numbers were estimated, they are surprisingly consistent. In addition, the survey of graduate human factors programs provided estimates that the 49 responding programs admitted a total of 426 students in all programs in fall 1988. If we correct this number by 7.15 percent for the reported number that drop out before they finish the program, then this suggests an aggregate output in a given year of 396 graduates. These numbers are consistent with the reported output of the year 1988–1989 of 372 and suggest that the source of supply is relatively stable. DEMAND The issue of demand is more difficult to address definitively. Several questions asked of the supervisors of human factors personnel who were interviewed provide some basis for the assessment of demand. First, supervisors were asked how many human factors personnel they had hired in the last six months; the answer, weighted to represent the total population, was 1,247. The survey respondents were also asked if they expected to employ more or fewer human factors specialists in two years and in five years and by how many. The results, shown in Table 5.2, together with the estimates
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey TABLE 5.2 Number of Recent Hires and Needs Forecast by Supervisors Area of Focus Recent Hires 2 Years 5 Years Computers 183 600 96 Aerospace 436 1,245 156 Industrial processes 85 199 100 Health and safety 96 94 36 Communications 48 132 36 Transportation 22 99 14 Energy 16 64 0 Consumer products 4 8 -12 Office products 0 8 4 Something else 357 258 47 Totals 1,247 2,707 477 Greater than 50% military 266 1,189 94 of the number of new hires in the last six months, indicate that, on average, they expected to employ more, but they were much more optimistic for the two-year time frame than for the five-year time frame. This may imply a peaking of demand in two years and then a plateau between three and five years; however, one cannot be sure, in part because respondents gave predictions for the five-year time frame only if they had forecast a need for additional personnel in the next two years. The major growth areas, as expected, are aerospace and computers; these areas are projecting growth that will further distort their proportions in the overall mix of technical specialties utilizing human factors specialists. Table 5.3 provides further detail. The first column of the table1 reflects the distribution of human factors specialists currently at work and is taken from the first column of Table 3.1. Table 5.3 includes the percentage of personnel working on military systems 50 percent or more of the time. This number is a proportion of total personnel estimated rather than broken down by area as it is in Table 3.1. The total of 1,247 new hires is especially interesting in light of the fact that only 372 students were graduated from identified human factors programs in a comparable period. It suggests that, 1 Column 1 is not fully consistent with the remaining columns because it is based on the full sample; the remaining columns are based on the supervisor sample.
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey for this period, more than 37 percent came from other specialties or transferred from other jobs. There was no difference between the number hired among those who said they now work on MANPRINT, HARDMAN, and IMPACT programs or anticipate doing so in the future. Second, the supervisors indicated that they had 811 unfilled, funded job openings at the same time (Table 5.3). Third, the survey sought estimates of the elasticity in the demand for human factors specialists; however, the numbers are more speculative because of the nature of the questions. Respondent supervisors were asked, "Does your unit have a need for additional human factors personnel to do the work you currently have, but no funds for hiring? If so, how many people do you need?" and "Could your unit generate additional projects if you had additional human factors personnel? If so, how many could you use?" The answers to these questions are also presented the table in terms of each area of specialty. Supervisors were rather bullish in their answers to these questions, indicating an additional 2,390 positions needed and 3,347 positions they could use, for a total (including 811 unfilled openings) of 6,548 positions. While these numbers are very interesting, especially the imbalance between the number supplied and the number demanded, several caveats are in order. (1) These demand estimates are derived from the numbers reported in the survey by human factors supervisors and then weighted to reflect the population at large. There is always room for error in this weighting process. (2) The supply numbers are derived from 49 reporting human TABLE 5.3 Recent Hires and Needs Forecast by Supervisors Area of Focus Currently At Work Recent Hires Openings Need Could Use N (%) N (%) N (%) Computers 22.3 14.7 147 (18.1) 630 (26.4) 928 (27.7) Aerospace 21.6 35.0 403 (49.7) 616 (25.8) 746 (22.3) Industrial processes 16.5 6.8 73 (9.0) 214 (8.6) 381 (11.4) Health and safety 8.9 7.7 35 (4.3) 200 (8.4) 290 (8.7) Communications 8.2 3.9 27 (3.3) 227 (9.5) 193 (5.8) Transportation 5.3 1.8 59 (7.3) 90 (3.8) 83 (2.5) Energy 2.2 1.3 11 (1.4) 42 (1.8) 48 (1.4) Consumer products 1.4 0.3 0 (0.0) 4 (0.2) 12 (0.4) Office products 0.7 0.0 0 (0.0) 12 (0–5) 8 (0.2) Something else 12.9 28.6 56 (6.9) 355 (14.9) 658 (19.7) Total 100.0 100.0 811 (100.0) 2,390 (100.0) 3,347 (100.0) Greater than 50% military 42.0 21.4 412 (50.1) 1,440 (43.6) 2,764 (40.0)
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey TABLE 5.4 Relationship of Activity Importance and Recent Hires Hired Someone in Past Six Months Kind of Work Considered Important Yes No Apply human factors principles 89 78 Design human-equipment interfaces 67 53 Prepare product warnings 26 16 Perform reliability analyses 30 19 factors graduate program, sand not all of them reported all of the numbers. The extrapolation to the remaining programs assumes uniformity. (3) Both the graduate program' and the specialist supervisor surveys were administered in May-September 1989. This was well before the series of events in Eastern Europe and the Middle East that have significantly changed the military equation and probably should lead us to revise our overall estimates of demand for human factors specialties in aerospace and other specialties that have an emphasis on military work. We attempted to determine if there were any specific kinds of work that seemed to be stimulating new hires disproportionately. The question to supervisors concerning whether they hired anyone in the last six months was cross-tabulated with one on the kinds of work they considered important for their job. Of the 52 categories of human factors topics examined, only 4 produced a 10 percent difference in whether that kind of work was important depending on whether they hired anyone in the last six months. These categories are shown in Table 5.4. The first category, "Apply human factors principles," is not easy to interpret but perhaps implies that those who are approaching human factors work more systematically are hiring. The second category, "Design human-equipment interfaces," is easily interpreted as reflecting increased work in the computer software/hardware area. Similarly, the third, "Prepare product warnings," while only a low percentage overall, probably implies increased sensitivity to safety and to product liability. The last category, ''Perform reliability analyses,'' may be interpreted in terms of increased emphasis on human reliability in the safety and energy-related specialties. RELATIONSHIP OF SUPPLY TO DEMAND When we attempt to extrapolate the trends of human factors employment over the last several years to the future, we predict that about 530 individuals are entering the field annually as 255 are leaving. It appears that less
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey than 5 percent are leaving to move into other fields. In the year 1988–1989 an estimated 1,247 people were hired: this number is more than twice the yearly averages. The supervisors uniformly predicted continued growth in the field, but they were more optimistic over a two-year than a five-year time frame. Finally, there appears to be very great elasticity in demand if the funding for human factors work was to be increased. It was estimated that jobs for an additional 6,500 human factors specialists could be created, if the supervisors were given the authority and funding to do so. It also seems clear that, at the current rate of production, including both recognized human factors programs and other disciplines that contribute human factors professionals, the supply could not keep up with this potential demand. If it were to materialize, there would be many more people transferring into the field with unknown qualifications.
Representative terms from entire chapter: