Engineers Australia addresses skills crisis with new engineering recovery roadmap

Engineering Australia skill crisis

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The Strengthening the Engineering Workforce report has been released by Engineers Australia ahead of the Australian Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit.

With Australia experiencing its worst-ever skills shortage, Engineers Australia has released its engineering skills recovery roadmap ahead of the Australian Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit in September.

Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO says the report is a timely call to action on the dire state of the nation’s skills shortage and that balancing supply with demand for engineers is a complex and long-term endeavour.

-“We know challenges with skilled migration, lack of supply of local engineering graduates, and plummeting rates of students taking STEM subjects are factors. Engineers Australia’s ground-breaking research into Women in Engineering and Barriers to employment for migrant engineers also tells us that under-utilisation of migrant engineers and lack of understanding around what engineers ‘do’ must also be addressed,” says Romilly Madew AO.

The Strengthening the Engineering Workforce report identifies five factors influencing the profession’s supply of engineers. It provides an inventory of tangible initiatives which – if implemented by government and industry – will lessen current and future shortages.

Strengthening the Engineering Workforce highlights the need for government, industry, the tertiary education sector, and professional associations to work together to overcome policy challenges and greenlight action.

“The long-term solution involves collaborative investment in young people and schools, industry-led development of early career graduates, a greater recognition of the value of women and migrant engineers, and community-wide awareness of the engineering profession,” says Ms Madew.

Engineers Australia Chief Engineer Jane MacMaster stresses that with an engineering job vacancy rate that continues to skyrocket, a looming emissions reduction deadline, and an economic recovery hinging on major infrastructure projects, the effective use of all available engineers must be considered a national strategic imperative.

“Our economy and communities are more reliant on the engineering profession than ever before, and we need to ensure we have enough engineers to design solutions for society’s most complex problems,” says Ms MacMaster.

“Without urgent action on the engineering skills shortage, we will see project costs and timelines blow out.  And for critical endeavours such as the transition to net zero emissions and circular economies, we don’t have time to spare.”

Factors influencing engineering supply

  1. School education (primary and secondary)
  2. Engineering study (vocational and higher education)
  3. Retention in the engineering workforce
  4. Skilled migrant engineering workforce participation
  5. Demand forecasting.

Recommended actions to strengthen the engineering workforce

Government

  1. All levels of government should work together to increase Australia’s teaching capability in STEM subjects, including making it easier for mid-career STEM professionals to become maths, science, or engineering studies teachers
  2. Incentivise Commonwealth contractors to provide graduate programs and internships for engineers through its procurement processes.
  3. Provide Commonwealth Supported Places (CPS) for Accredited Engineering master’s qualifications to help articulate other STEM bachelors’ qualifications to the level of professional engineers and to help retain engineers in the workforce by upskilling them in new and emerging fields.
  4. Provide support for programs that assist engineers returning to the workforce after a career break (STEM Returners) and fund new programs helping engineers working out of the field return to engineering.
  5. Refine Australia’s migration program objectives to be more targeted, to attract migrants with the specific experience and skills required, increasing their employability.

Industry

  1. Drive initiatives within companies to support the retention of engineers in the workforce.
  2. Support skilled migrant engineers with employment opportunities by addressing barriers identified in Engineers Australia’s research report.  
  3. Offer mid-career engineers a senior ‘sponsor’ to help develop their career pathway.
  4. Partner with schools to support school STEM programs and provide opportunities for early career engineers to engage the next generation of engineers.
  5. Provide internships and graduate programs. Engineers Australia’s guidelines for Providing work experience to engineering students can help the industry offer a rewarding experience. 

Tertiary education

  1. Provide support to engineering students to strengthen inclusivity, diminish imposter syndrome (especially for female students) and alleviate financial burden (e.g., through scholarships).
  2. Advocate for Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) for the two-year post-graduate conversion master’s to encourage graduates from other STEM fields to become professional engineers.
  3. Contact engineering students who withdraw from their course to determine if further support can retain them in their studies and inform these students of other engineering occupational categories.
  4. Help students find internships and graduate employment opportunities by working with industry and government.

Source: © 2022 Engineers Australia

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