Are you a Migrant Engineer in Australia who is struggling to get your foot in the door due to a lack of local experience?Congratulations! You have arrived in Australia on a work visa and you are ready to put your engineering skills to the test. Although the demand for engineers in Australia is huge, we often hear from migrant engineers that finding the very first job can be difficult. According to a recent report by APRI (Australian Population Research Institute), recently arrived migrants often struggle to find a professional job in Australia. The most common obstacles are:
- lack of local experience
- average communication skills in English
- lack of ”cultural awareness” (not understanding unwritten rules of the Australian workplace culture).
Employment Rates of Migrant Engineers in AustraliaAccording to Engineers Australia, overseas-born Engineers make up over 58% of Australia’s engineering workforce, however, many Migrant Engineers who move Down Under end up being underemployed or unemployed. However, this is not the full picture. Migrant Engineers from MESC (Majority English Speaking Countries) such as the UK, Ireland, South Africa, and New Zealand have an employment rate almost identical to Australia-born Engineers. On the other hand, migrant Engineers from OMESC (Other than Majority English Speaking Countries) have high unemployment rates with Engineers from India, China, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh struggling the most to enter the employment market (Source: Engineers Australia, Barriers to employment for Migrant Engineers, 2021).
Lack of local experience and the ‘cultural fit’Lack of local experience can be the number one obstacle for international engineers seeking jobs in Australia for several reasons:
- Industry Familiarity: Local experience often indicates that a candidate is familiar with the specific practices, regulations, and standards of the Australian engineering industry. Employers might prefer candidates who are already well-versed in the local context to ensure smoother integration into their projects.
- Networking and References: Candidates with local experience might have established networks within the industry and can provide references from Australian employers or colleagues. These references can vouch for their skills, work ethics, and cultural fit, which can be advantageous during the hiring process.
- Communication Skills: Effective communication is crucial in any workplace, and having local experience often indicates better English language skills and an understanding of Australian workplace communication norms.
- Understanding of Local Codes and Regulations: Each country has its own set of engineering codes, regulations, and safety standards. Having local experience demonstrates familiarity with these regulations, which is important for ensuring project compliance and safety.
- Cultural Fit: Local experience can suggest that a candidate is familiar with Australian workplace culture and can integrate more seamlessly into diverse teams.
- Client and Stakeholder Relationships: Certain roles may require interaction with local clients, stakeholders, and regulatory bodies. Having local experience can facilitate these interactions and help build positive relationships.
- Speed of Contribution: Candidates with local experience might require less time for onboarding and training, as they are already familiar with local procedures and practices. This can be appealing to employers seeking candidates who can contribute quickly.
- Risk Mitigation: Employers may perceive hiring candidates with local experience as a way to mitigate potential risks associated with unfamiliarity with local industry practices or regulations.
Is your English stopping you from getting a job?Based on the data and existing research, one can assume that one of the reasons for the high unemployment and underemployment of Migrant Engineers from OMESC countries in Australia is “linguistic discrimination” or “linguicism.” Candidates with non-native English accents, even if they are proficient in English, might face bias in the hiring process. Accents can sometimes lead to perceptions of lower competence, communication difficulties, or cultural differences, which may affect how candidates are evaluated. Candidates who speak English as their first language might be perceived as having superior communication skills, regardless of their actual proficiency. This perception can impact hiring decisions, as effective communication is a critical skill in most job roles. Employers may also unconsciously associate candidates who speak English as their first language with a better cultural fit, especially in industries where Western cultural norms are prevalent. This bias could affect decisions related to team dynamics and collaboration. Some job listings may explicitly mention “native-level English” or “native English speaker” as a requirement, which can disproportionately disadvantage non-native speakers, even if their English proficiency is high. It’s worth mentioning that like any form of bias, linguistic bias can be unconscious. Hiring managers and decision-makers might not even realize that their preferences are influenced by language background.
Our tip: Work on your English to improve your job prospectsEffective communication skills are essential in a diverse workplace, and here’s a tailored strategy to help you succeed:
- Immerse Yourself in English: Surround yourself with English as much as possible. Listen to podcasts, watch TV shows, and read books or articles in English. This exposure will help you become familiar with different accents, vocabulary, and communication styles.
- Networking and Conversations: Engage in conversations with native English speakers, colleagues, and professionals in your engineering field. Participate in industry events, workshops, and seminars to practice speaking and expand your vocabulary in a technical context.
- Technical English Development: Focus on engineering-specific terminology. Reading technical journals, research papers, and industry reports in English will not only deepen your understanding of your field but also improve your language skills in a relevant context.
- Language Exchange Partners: Connect with language exchange partners who are interested in learning your native language while helping you improve your English. This reciprocal arrangement can offer valuable insights into both languages and cultures.
- Online Language Courses: Take advantage of online platforms that offer English courses designed for professionals. Look for courses that focus on business communication, presentation skills, and technical writing to align with your engineering career goals.
- Practice Regularly: Set aside time for daily practice. Engage in activities such as speaking aloud, writing emails, and summarizing technical concepts in English. Regular practice is key to gradual improvement.
- Feedback and Correction: Seek feedback on your language skills from mentors, colleagues, or language tutors. Constructive criticism will help you identify areas for improvement and tailor your efforts effectively.
- Use Language Apps: Language learning apps can provide interactive and gamified experiences for improving your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation on the go.
- Volunteer and Community Engagement: Participate in community events or volunteer opportunities that require English communication. This hands-on experience will help you apply your language skills in real-life situations.
- Accent Reduction (Optional): If you find that your accent is affecting your communication, consider working with a speech coach or accent reduction program. The goal is not to eliminate your accent but to enhance clarity and mutual understanding.
Does your CV meet Australian requirements?A CV tailored to meet local requirements is crucial because it serves as the first impression to potential employers. It’s not just a document but a representation of your professional identity and suitability for the role. A well-crafted CV demonstrates your understanding of the local job market, industry expectations, and your commitment to fitting into the local professional landscape. A CV that incorporates local terminologies, industry trends, and familiar certifications indicates that you’re familiar with Australia’s engineering sector, making you an attractive candidate. Following the Australian CV format means you’re culturally aware and willing to adapt to the professional norms and work environment of the country.
To find out more about crafting the perfect CV read our blog post ‘How to write an Australian CV’. You might also be interested in understanding CV heat maps which show you the sections recruiters or hiring managers focus on the most.
Don’t forget about your LinkedIn profile!Having a complete and professional LinkedIn profile is important in Australia. LinkedIn is a widely used professional networking platform that serves as an online resume and portfolio. It allows you to showcase your skills, experiences, education, and accomplishments in a visually appealing and easily accessible format. LinkedIn also provides a platform to connect with colleagues, peers, industry professionals, and potential employers. Building a strong network can help you stay updated on industry trends, job openings, and relevant events. Many companies in Australia use LinkedIn to post job openings and search for potential candidates. Having a well-optimized profile increases your visibility to recruiters and hiring managers who are actively searching for talent. You can also use LinkedIn to research companies, their culture, and their employees. This information can be valuable when preparing for interviews or assessing potential employers. Colleagues and supervisors can endorse your skills and provide recommendations on your profile, adding credibility to your qualifications and work experience. On LinkedIn, you can also showcase your work as the platform allows you to upload documents, presentations, and links to articles or projects you’ve worked on. This enables you to provide concrete examples of your expertise. Invest your time into your LinkedIn profile and presence. Read our blog on writing a great LinkedIn profile here.
Connect with Australian organizations helping migrant job seekersThere are some great organizations that can help you with your job hunt. Many of them have been created by migrants who struggled to get a job in their profession, but eventually succeeded and now want to share their knowledge with other migrants. Others are run by state governments and can be found in bigger cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth.
SkillMax and English for Employment (EFE)If you are a migrant engineer in Australia and English is not your first language, you might want to consider enrolling in a SkillMax course with TAFE. “Skillmax assists skilled migrants with overseas qualifications to seek employment in their area of professional expertise. The programme is free to eligible participants and is designed to provide participants with a greater understanding of the current labour market, as well as the skills to acquire strategies to access employment opportunities in Australia. Skillmax is an intensive fast-track course, consisting of 15 hours of classroom tuition per week, delivered over five weeks. English for Employment is a slower-paced course delivered over ten weeks, for 15 hours per week of classroom tuition. Both courses also include an additional four-hour workshop, and students are also expected to complete 12 hours of self-directed learning activities each week. Aiming to prepare skilled overseas professionals to seamlessly enter the Australian workforce, the course content covers essential areas such as:
- Australian workplace culture and labour-market conditions;
- career planning, skills analysis and goal setting;
- job-seeking skills and self-promote techniques;
- application letter and résumé writing advice, for private and public sector positions; and
- interviewing and networking techniques.
Find out more about Skillmax
CareerSeekersCareerSeekers is a non-profit organization supporting Australia’s humanitarian entrants into professional careers. The program provides in-depth preparation and support to both refugees and people seeking asylum who are either currently studying at university or looking to restart their professional careers in Australia. The program supports two distinct groups of asylum seekers and refugees: Mid-career Professionals – those with tertiary qualifications and professional work experience from their country of origin, who strive to re-establish their careers in Australia. These participants undertake paid internships lasting twelve weeks that provide local experience, a local reference and help them establish a network within their chosen profession. University students – full-time university students who undertake paid internships during university breaks in an effort to link their studies with practical work experience. The CareerSeekers university program aligns to existing corporate internship programs. To be eligible for the program, all participants must demonstrate English skills at a level that allows them to operate in a professional environment and have work rights. All internships are paid and last a minimum of 12 weeks. Interns gain local professional experience and begin to develop networks in their industries in Australia. Source: careerseekers.org.au How a 12-week internship with construction company Lendlease led to a two-month contract and then a permanent position as an environmental and sustainable coordinator on a project to remove train level crossings in Melbourne.
Global Engineering Talent (GET) ProgramOverseas-born engineers can now overcome the barriers to employment under an Engineers Australia migrant work placement program funded by the Northern Territory and Queensland Government. The Global Engineering Talent (GET) Program will help 20 overseas-born engineers with a pathway to engineering employment in the Northern Territory and Queensland. A six-week preparatory course through Engineering Education Australia with engineering standards-specific training and a 12-week paid internship at an engineering firm will be included in the program. Click here to read more about the engineering program in Northern Territory. Click here to read more about the engineering program in Queensland.
SkillME – Employment support for migrants and refugeesIn Sydney, we recommend you contact SkillMe – an initiative for migrants to have their overseas skills and qualifications recognised in Australia. The project works with individuals and makes a comprehensive assessment of a client’s experience, their aspirations and career goals, and develops a realistic plan to track their progress. In the past three years, SkillME has helped more than a thousand people and continues to support migrants and refugees towards recognition of overseas skills and qualifications. SkillME also focuses on employer engagement and has successfully established partnerships with Google, LinkedIn, Engineers Without Borders NSW and Multiplex. SkillME is open to Permanent Residents, Australian citizens, and refugees who have limited or zero local work experience. Find out more here: Metro Assist
The Engineering Pathway Industry Cadetship (EPIC)”The Engineering Pathway Industry Cadetship (EPIC) is an 18-month program for refugee and asylum seeker engineers working on major transport infrastructure projects. The Industry-first program aims to bridge the gap faced by new Australians in matching their international qualifications to Australian workforce requirements – addressing the barriers often faced by new Australians in accessing professional employment.” (Source: Victoria’s Big Build).
- Bachelor-level qualification in Engineering (any) from overseas or locally
- Full working rights under the following Visas:
- Humanitarian Stay (Temporary) (subclass 449) visa
- Temporary (Humanitarian Concern) (subclass 786) visa
- Refugee visa (subclass 200)
- Humanitarian (subclass 201) visa
- Global Special Humanitarian (subclass 202) visa
- Emergency Rescue (subclass 203) visa
- Women at Risk (subclass 204) visa
- Protection (subclass 866) visa
- Temporary Protection Visa 785
- Safe Haven Enterprise (subclass 790) visa
The Global Engineering Talent (GET) programOverseas-born engineers will overcome the greatest barriers to employment under an Engineers Australia program and a Northern Territory Government grant to help them crack the Australian jobs market. The Northern Territory Government has contributed $198,000 to the program to help an initial 20 overseas-born engineers with a pathway to engineering employment in Australia. The GET program will include a six-week preparatory course through Engineering Education Australia with engineering standards-specific training and a 12-week paid internship at an engineering firm. Read more here.
Engineering Education AustraliaEngineering Education Australia offers a course called Professional Year in Engineering which involves a 12-week internship placement. Program structure:
- Practical training (32 weeks): Learn effective resume writing and interview techniques; Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Occupational Health, Safety & Environmental (OHS&E) processes, and legislative requirements for working in Australia via our face-to-face workshops and online resources. Choose from flexible study options including one full day or two nights (half day) per week.
- Internship placement (12 weeks full time): Build a network of peers and professionals and apply your practical training in the workplace. Throughout your placement, you’ll be assigned a mentor to support you along the way.
AMES AustraliaAMES Australia has helped new and recently arrived refugees and migrants to settle in to Victoria for the last 60 years. “AMES Australia provides a comprehensive range of settlement services for refugees and migrants. These include on-arrival settlement support, English language and literacy training, vocational education and training, and employment services. These services are primarily delivered through the following federal and state contracts: Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP), Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS), Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) Program, Skills First, Jobactive.” Go to AMES Australia website
Overseas Qualified Professionals Program (OQP) VictoriaOQP is available as both a full-time (14 hours per week over three days) and a part-time (7 hours per week, one day and one evening) course. The program covers:
- CV (resume) development
- Analysis of position description and key selection criteria (KSC)
- Interview skills development
- Job interview and workplace communication skills practice
- Workshops on the local labour market and Australian workplace practices
- Introduction to Australian management concepts and industrial relations
- Professional mentoring
- Assessment of your work readiness
- Identification of barriers to employment
- Individual employment pathway plan
- Support for industry-placement in metropolitan or regional Victoria
City East Community College Mentor Program“An initiative of the City East College, the City East Mentor Program is meeting an unmet need by supporting the integration of professionally skilled migrants and refugees into employment, enabling them to have career continuity. This project addresses the ‘brain waste’ of far too many highly skilled and qualified people in our society who are doing casual work to pay the bills but not working to their full potential in their profession. The Mentor Program promotes social inclusion, creates employment pathways and eases the transition of professionally skilled migrants and refugees into life and work in Australia.” (Source: City East Community College) “For those who are in Sydney I strongly suggest to check out the Mentor Program at City East College. This is a fantastic opportunity in which highly successful individuals with years of experience in Australia volunteering their time to mentor and guide the newcomers who are struggling to find a job in their field of expertise. This is a FREE program. Great people for a great cause.” Amir Hesami, Procurement Professional
Diverse Queensland Workforce ProgramThe program targets work-ready migrants or refugees (including temporary visa holders with necessary work permits), and international students aged 18 years and over who are unemployed or underemployed. School students are not eligible. The program is delivered at no cost to participants. Your assistance package can include: – ‘soft’ or ‘enterprise’ skills to promote job mobility – career advice, job search techniques and job readiness skills – nationally recognised training – work experience opportunities – health and wellbeing support – vocational English for workplace readiness – referral to other services as necessary (e.g. Queensland Overseas Qualification Unit and relevant professional bodies) – networking opportunities with local employers – career coaching and mentoring – post-employment support Find out more about this program and its locations here
Connections Australia AppConnections is an app developed to empower migrants in Australia to set up valuable connections – an idea conceived by Rinku Razdan, an Australian migrant herself. “It’s an organization which is formed by the migrants for the migrants and it’s Australia’s if not the world’s first digital platform. It’s a one stop multilingual digital platform that uses data and API to instantly connect any new arrival in a city or a country to key services you need to settle like settlement information your community events services around you and jobs.” The app is aimed at helping those starting a new chapter in their lives to feel less alone and provide them with the tools to create fulfilling, rich lives in a strange new place. Download Connections Australia App now
ROA – Regional Opportunities Australia
Regional Opportunities Australia (ROA) is a not-for-profit organisation that helps migrants and refugees move from cities to welcoming regional communities and connects them to employment and business opportunities.
Services are free of charge for clients and employers.“One of the main functions we’ll perform is helping to ‘culturally prepare’ regional communities and migrants and refugees on what’s expected of them in lieu of norms and culture. We don’t want to just send people into these communities or parachute them in; we want to make sure both parties are knowledgeable about each other’s cultures and welcoming towards each other.”
Kaleidoscope Initiative – Western AustraliaKaleidoscope offers Job Readiness Workshops – FREE, 5-day workshops, especially for migrants, designed to boost confidence, employability, and job-seeking skills! The following topics are covered in these workshops:
- Effective networking skills
- Developing a career strategy
- Australian workplace culture
- Using LinkedIn for job-search
- Resume writing
- Cover letter writing
- Interview skills
- Wellness, family session.
Other tips to improve your chances of getting an engineering job in AustraliaAlthough overcoming a lack of local experience can be hard, there are ways you can greatly improve your chances of finding a suitable job in your profession. Below are some suggestions from our Recruiters as well as migrant engineers who succeeded in their job hunt.
Network with other migrant engineers in AustraliaNetworking will allow you to meet other migrant engineers in Australia who work in the same field of expertise as you. Ask them questions about the companies they work for and projects they have been involved in. “It is mainly through networking events with engineers/people who are originally from overseas and have a network in Australia already. People who have been in Australia for a while and understand your situation more because they were in the same situation before. It is even easier when they come from the same country. I think it is mainly about solidarity and I feel that people with the same origins living in a foreign country become close quite fast and want to help one another. Of course, it also works with Australian people, and I strongly encourage foreigners to go to Aussie social events, although it might be a bit more challenging for someone new to the country.” You might be surprised to find that some of them now help others to land a job for free. There are some wonderful not-for-profit organizations on social media that provide information on such topics as emigrating to Australia, getting your qualifications recognized, and finding work. Latin Engineers Australia has 15 000 members who regularly share tips on all the above topics. They also hold free workshops in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide and have a mentoring program. To find out more about Latin Engineers Australia click here.
Don’t be afraid to ask!We asked our network if they could share some tips on overcoming the lack of local experience obstacle. Here’s what they said: 1. Understand the role descriptions within the industry (from graduate engineer to project director) and the relative maturity between the roles. The maturity required will vary (depending on project/company size, a Senior Project Engineer (SPE) for a huge project might have the seniority required for a small project Project Manager (PM). 2. Take one or two steps down in your career – you don’t get to start in an industry that is new to you at the same level you were back in your country. New country = new industry! That’s just the way it is. And don’t worry about that… You’ll get back on track quickly! 3. Narrow down the range of your hard skills. Focus on what you are really experienced in. Don’t try to convince anyone you’re good at everything. Australian industry doesn’t work like that. Once you’re in, you’ll get the chance to show and use your holistic understanding of projects (if that’s the case). 4. Look for the opportunities amongst those (companies, consultants, recruiters) that can genuinely make an unbiased assessment (100% unbiased – it’s harder than it looks). 5. When you get your chance… It’s just the beginning! Make sure you are around supportive people (You’ll need support…more than you can imagine.) Eduardo Poley, Project Manager
Do not say to potential Employers or Recruiters that you can work for free.As explained by Bernardo Coelho, Engineering Solutions Manager: “I can’t stress enough with the students and migrants I talk to how important is to do your research and find a company that you really care about and want to work for, before engaging with them. “Who is willing to do anything, usually can’t get nothing done.” If you are a professional, if you have expertise, you should show “the” company your value, not offer yourself to work for free.” “(…) And we have to think as the other side: if I own a company and someone is asking to work for free just to get experience, in my opinion, he doesn’t really care about the company or the job, he’s just desperate. What value he will actually add in the long term? He will probably look for something else, that he really wants to do, after getting the “local experience”.
Are you registered to work as Engineer in your state?Each Australian state and territory is responsible for registration of engineers. Some states don’t require an engineer to be registered while others have statutory regulations that require it. For example, in Queensland practicing engineers must be registered to carry out professional engineering services. The exception to this is if you work under the direct supervision of a registered engineer or work only to a prescriptive standard.
NER – National Engineering RegisterIt is suggested that if you are a migrant engineer in Australia particularly looking for a job in Queensland that you investigate the National Engineering Register (NER). It is a comprehensive directory of Australian engineers who have met the high standards of professionalism expected within the industry. Registrants on the NER will need to confirm the following eligibility criteria:
- a recognised qualification
- relevant professional practice
- currency of Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
- Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII)
- a commitment to ethical practice.
DO NOT apply to hundreds of jobsA successful job hunt is not equivalent to applying to every single job you see posted on a job board. Rather, a successful job hunt is about having a strategy. Start with identifying the companies you would like to work for. Follow them on social media. Identify the key people in each company. Learn as much as you can about the areas the company operates in and its current and past projects. Expand and leverage your network. Attend networking events, conferences, and workshops to connect with people in your industry. If you lack local experience, apply to companies directly. “One of the things that truly helped my to build my network and get in touch with company directors or hiring managers was LinkedIn. I reckon you get better chances talking directly to them. Look for smaller businesses is another strategy, as you have more interaction with team members, superiors and they’re more open to absorb a new talent that wants to grow with the company.” Kercia Souza, Graduate Architect
Make Recruiters your friends, not your enemies!If you are applying for a job through a recruitment agency, follow up on your application. Recruiters get hundreds of CVs every week so it’s good to remind them about your availability. At the same time, do not harass a Recruiter. If the Recruiter has acknowledged that they have received your CV and you have had a follow-up chat, you need to wait. If you haven’t heard back, you should read between the lines (that means you are not considered for the job). When approaching a Recruiter on LinkedIn, send a personalized message. In the message briefly introduce yourself (your name, your current location, qualifications, how many years of experience you have, and the role you are interested in; if you have moved from overseas include information about the type of working visa you have). Attach a current CV in Word format. Do not send blank emails or blank messages with attachments to Recruiters. If a job advert has a link where you can apply, follow the link. Recruitment agencies use CRMs to easily manage Applicant details as they get thousands of applications. Whenever possible, meet Recruiters face-to-face. This will help you stand out from the crowd and prove your English skills.
At the job interviewPrepare yourself thoroughly for the interview. Learn as much as you can about your potential employer: history, key people, past and present projects, and future growth plans. Follow the company on LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with company news and announcements. Practice talking about your previous work experience: what were the projects you were involved in, your responsibilities, what you learnt and how these skills could be useful to the potential employer. Dress to impress. Although Australians are quite relaxed when it comes to dressing for work, always wear smart clothes to the interview. Arrive early. Make sure you have plenty of time to find parking. And don’t forget to bring a copy of your resume!
When talking with the interviewer:
- introduce yourself and give a firm handshake
- maintain eye contact throughout the interview
- listen carefully to the questions being asked
- mimic the interviewer’s body language
- don’t just wait for the questions – you have to take some responsibility for making the interview a memorable conversation for the interviewer.
- be positive and smile
If you are a Civil Engineer, a Construction Professional or a Surveyor who would like to be part of the infrastructure boom in Australia or New Zealand, register your CV here or search our jobs. ConsultANZ Recruitment – We consult our Clients on their hiring needs and our Candidates on their career prospects.
Finding an Australian employer to sponsor you can be very difficult so we recommend obtaining a visa that gives you full working rights.
With the latest announcement of a simpler pathway to Australian citizenship, record numbers of Kiwis are moving across the ditch.