The incestuous nature of photonics poaching makes it seem like the same 1000 scientists and engineers rotate periodically through the same 1001 job openings. To break the cycle, photonics needs creative recruiting solutions.
One out of four readers of Photonics Spectra -- you, your co-worker, your competitor or your boss -- is actively looking for a new job. These job-seekers are already employed but are, in the words of one recruiting firm, frogs in a wheelbarrow: They can hop out at any time.
The number of "people jumping ship is unbelievable," said Jeff Rudzinsky of the recruiting firm Louis Rudzinsky Associates in Lexington, Mass. "It's almost a norm in the [photonics] industry."
Explosive growth in applications of photonics, especially in the areas of fiber optics and optical communications, has created an enormous talent vacuum. If a research group has four scientists and five open positions, one of the four will probably leave for another job before the new ones start work.
Whether you call it musical chairs, revolving doors, competitive poaching or employee churn, it's a headache for all high-technology companies and a debilitating migraine for photonics. The turnover delays new product development, destroys morale and forces companies to concentrate on immediate needs rather than long-term growth.
Photonics associations, recruiting firms, educators and government officials are urging manufacturers to join in developing educational, immigration and employment initiatives that will attract new talent to photonics and improve the level of competition rather than cannibalize competitors.