Engineers Australia (EA) reveals escalating engineering skills crisis

Engineers Australia

Engineers Australia, migrant engineers, skilled migrants,

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The ‘Statistical Overview of the Engineering Profession’ report released by Engineers Australia will offer insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the engineering workforce.

Speaking at the Parliament House launch, Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO said the analysis highlights the important role engineers play in driving every sector of the economy while revealing a deepening engineering skills crisis. 

“The report serves as a critical resource for policy and decision-makers, offering insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the Australian engineering landscape,” Ms Madew said.  

“As the world continues to embrace technology and systems, becoming more sophisticated and interdependent, our economy and society are more reliant than ever on the engineering profession. This report reveals a growing gulf, with Australia sliding towards a ‘new norm” of an economy hampered by an engineering skills shortage.  

“The implications range from delays to nation-building projects, stifled productivity, and low growth; failing to reach our net-zero goals and missing out on the next wave of wealth creation in eco-technology and innovation. 

“Government, industry, the tertiary education sector, and professional associations must act now, working together to overcome challenges and greenlight action.”  

Key findings

Engineers remain the backbone of Australia’s national capability:  

Australia relies on approximately half a million qualified engineers to tackle its most pressing challenges, from climate change to clean energy transition and complex infrastructure needs. Engineers are indispensable to the future of transport systems, sustainable cities, and overall national resilience. 

Skills crisis escalating:  

Australia’s engineering skills and labour shortage is at its highest level in over a decade, with the demand for engineering skills outpacing supply. Despite a significant increase in the number of qualified engineers between 2016 and 2021, demand outpaces supply, growing at three times the rate of the general workforce. 

Critical sectors impacted:  

Several sectors, including Defence, Clean Energy, Power Systems, Construction, Software Engineering, and more, are facing significant challenges in recruiting experienced engineers. 

Urgent national attention needed:  

The report underscores the need for coordinated national efforts, focusing on increasing engineering graduates, retaining women in engineering, addressing the impending retirement cliff, removing barriers for migrant engineers, and lifting the voice of engineering in the public sector to support practical decision-making. 

Support for policy and decision-making: 

Engineers Australia’s research, data, and analysis, combined with the expertise of its 122,000 members, are poised to assist governments and industries in rapidly developing a national strategy to meet Australia’s engineering needs. 

Key statistics

Engineering Graduates: 

  • Around 25% of Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) students graduate in the minimum time for full-time study. 
  • Around 75% of engineering students graduate within six years. 
  • Over 75% of domestic commencements complete a degree in nine years. 
  • There is a 5% attrition rate in the first year, with a further 20% attrition over later years. 
  • Low growth in domestic commencements relative to the population will limit the supply of Australian engineers over the short term. 

Women in Engineering:  

  • Only 17.7% of engineering graduates are women, with 18.9% enrolment. 
  • 16% of qualified engineers in Australia are women, with 76% of them born overseas. Australian born women make up just 3.8% of the total engineering qualified population in Australia. 
  • Female engineers make up 14% of the engineering workforce. 
  • The share of women in engineering occupations increased in most industries, except for a decline from 7.3% to 6% in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. 
  • At the current rate (2.4% increase every five years), it will take 70.8 years for female engineers to reach equal representation in the profession. 
  • Lack of awareness about engineering is a common reason for women not considering it as a career. 

Engineers Not Working in Engineering:  

  • Over 20% of Australia’s qualified engineers are not in the labour force. 
  • It’s expected that up to 68,133 engineers will retire over the next 15 years, with 25,000 retiring in the next five years. 
  • There’s a retention problem; with approximately 3,200 engineers leaving the profession for other sectors annually. 

Migrant Engineers:  

  • The majority of Australia’s engineering workforce is born overseas. 
  • Overseas-born engineers contributed to 70% of the growth in the engineering labour force from 2016 to 2021. 
  • Engineers born overseas comprise 62.7% of the qualified engineer population, 62% of the engineer-qualified labour force, and 55.8% of the population in engineering occupations. 
  • Australia competes with other countries for skilled migrant engineers. 

Millennial Engineers:  

  • Nearly 50% of Australia’s qualified engineers in the labour force are under 40 years of age. 
  • Millennials are the largest generation in the engineering profession. 
  • The proportion of qualified engineers undertaking part-time work is increasing faster than those in full-time positions. 

First Nations Engineers:  

  • While First Nations qualified engineers and those working in engineering occupations increased in all industries, they remain a small proportion of the engineering population at just 0.3%. 

Engineers in the Public Sector 

  • Engineers’ skills and expertise are highly valued and transferable to various fields, but they are underrepresented in the public sector. 

For the first time, Engineers Australia has also introduced an interactive dashboard with the report that allows anyone to access and analyse the data at a local level, providing insights into the supply and demographics of engineers by industry in specific regions.  

Source: © 2023 Engineers Australia

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