Engineers Australia responds to Government’s new migration strategy and Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) Market Capacity Report

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Engineers Australia responds to the Government’s new migration strategy of introducing a new specialist skills visa and Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) Market Capacity Report.

“Australia’s migration policy must strike a balance between protecting the interests of local workers and harnessing the extensive pool of skilled migrants. In this age of rapid technological advancements and global interconnectedness, an equitable and fair migration system that aligns with Australia’s socio-economic objectives is essential,” says Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO.   

“The government’s intention to streamline migration processes for highly skilled professionals and introduce a new visa for specialist skills are positive steps towards enabling employers to access the skills necessary for growth and innovation. However, it is also crucial to ensure that skilled migrant engineers already in Australia receive support in finding stable and relevant employment.”  

A significant focus of IA’s Market Capacity Report are ‘regional hotspots’ that are experiencing labour shortages due to increased investment in infrastructure. Ms Madew says these regions present unique opportunities to integrate migration policies with regional development, potentially stimulating local economies and enhancing skill development.  

“Data shows a considerable number of qualified engineers in these hotspots, many of whom are not fully utilised, indicating possibilities for targeted migration and skill improvement to fill local skill gaps and aid in the overall development of these areas. For example, in New South Wales Mid North Coast, there are 1,836 qualified engineers, yet 35 percent are not employed in engineering roles,” she says.   

“Despite an engineering skills shortfall, many qualified migrant engineers struggle to find relevant employment. In 2021, 47 per cent of migrant engineers who were qualified were actively looking for jobs in engineering.”  

The IA Market Capacity Report refers to Engineers Australia’s Global Engineering Talent (GET) program as a potential strategy to increase the employability of migrant engineers qualified overseas.  

“This program is the outcome of Engineers Australia’s research on the employment barriers for skilled migrant engineers and offers a comprehensive strategy to assist these engineers in integrating into the Australian engineering workforce. This includes providing support and equipping them with specific skills and knowledge pertinent to the Australian engineering sector,” Ms Madew says. 

“Government should implement the GET program in regional hotspots as a way to not only fill job vacancies but also contribute to building a resilient, diverse, and innovative engineering workforce that is essential for Australia.” 

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

Source: © 2023 Engineers Australia

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