Find out the top nationalities of civil engineering, construction and surveying candidates we successfully placed with our Australian and New Zealand clients in 2023.
Recruiting in 2023 – the big picture
In 2023, Australia’s and New Zealand’s infrastructure ambitions continued to face familiar hurdles. Despite both nations’ significant plans for infrastructure development, the persistent lack of a skilled workforce remained a paramount challenge for employers and recruiters.
Historically, Australia and New Zealand have heavily relied on the international talent pool to meet their engineering and construction needs.
Graph: Overseas-born engineers contributed to 70% of the growth in the engineering labour force in Australia from 2016 to 2021 (source: Engineers Australia)
However, the COVID-19 pandemic’s abrupt impact on global mobility unveiled the vulnerabilities of this dependence. Border closures not only strained the immediate availability of skilled workers but also spotlighted the long-term challenges of sustaining a robust local engineering and construction talent pipeline.
With Australian and New Zealand borders fully re-opening in 2023, international engineering, construction and surveying candidates started gradually making their way Down Under.
The talent war intensified in 2023
While no longer in the grips of a pandemic-induced standstill, 2023 continued to be fraught with difficulties. Visa processing changes, delays and red tape slowed the return of international talent to pre-pandemic levels.
This situation was further complicated by the evolving global landscape, where competition for engineering and construction talent intensified, making it harder for Australia and New Zealand to attract the necessary skills from abroad.
ConsultANZ Recruitment stats – 2023
The top three nationalities of Candidates we successfully placed are: Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These three nationalities accounted for 70% of our placements in 2023. The remaining 30% of our successful placements went to candidates with the following nationalities: UK, Philippines, Nepal, India, Iran, Zimbabwe, Somalia, China, Jordan, Spain, and Sri Lanka.
South African professionals made their mark
In 2023, ConsultANZ experienced tremendous success in facilitating the relocation of numerous civil engineering and construction professionals from South Africa to Australia and New Zealand.
Recognizing the complexities involved in such a significant move, we’ve strategically partnered with a specialized visa agency. This collaboration aims to streamline the transition for candidates, ensuring a seamless and hassle-free process both for them and for the employers.
The impact of these South African professionals on our clients’ teams has been profoundly positive. These candidates not only bring with them a wealth of expertise and fresh perspectives to their new roles but also possess a strong motivation to excel and integrate into their new communities. Their drive is often fueled by a desire to secure a better lifestyle for their families, making them highly committed and valuable additions to any team.
For employers in Australia and New Zealand, tapping into this talent pool represents an opportunity to bolster their workforce with skilled and motivated professionals. ConsultANZ is committed to making this opportunity as accessible and beneficial as possible, handling the intricacies of international recruitment.
The power of direct outreach
In 2023, the majority of our successful candidates was identified via dedicated recruiter search. While job boards play a role in the recruitment ecosystem, our experience this year has underscored a crucial insight: the majority of our standout candidates were discovered not through passive listings, but through the strategic and direct efforts of our skilled recruiters.
Leveraging their deep industry knowledge, extensive networks, and keen understanding of both client needs and candidate aspirations, our recruiters excelled in identifying and engaging top-tier talent. This hands-on approach allowed us to reach professionals who were not actively seeking new opportunities but were open to the right proposition.
Looking ahead – Recruitment challenges in 2024
Recruitment Challenge 1: Lack of local skilled workforce will continue
The lack of skilled candidates will become the number one hurdle for the construction sector, potentially stalling ambitious infrastructure projects and slowing industry growth. According to the latest reports from Engineers Australia, Australia’s engineering skills and labour shortage is at its highest level in over a decade, with the demand for engineering skills outpacing supply, growing at three times the rate of the general workforce.
In Australia, 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 also a retention problem with approximately 3,200 engineers leaving the profession for other sectors annually.
The annual Infrastructure Market Capacity report finds that Australia’s infrastructure workforce will need to grow by 127 per cent to meet demand. It is the third year that Infrastructure Australia has reported significant labour shortages.
Recruitment Challenge 2: Employers will need to adjust their unrealistic expectations of finding the ‘perfect’ candidate
The current market, plagued by skill shortages, demands a shift in perspective from employers. The ideal candidate with the perfect blend of experience, skills, and knowledge is increasingly difficult to find.
Instead of holding out for a candidate who ticks all the boxes, employers will need to consider the broader potential of applicants. By investing in training and development, companies can cultivate the precise skills and expertise they need in-house. This approach not only addresses immediate staffing needs but also contributes to a more skilled and adaptable workforce in the long run.
Recruitment Challenge 3: In 2024, the candidates that employers are seeking will not be actively submitting job applications
In 2024, many Employers will continue receiving irrelevant and unsuitable applications when advertising their job openings on job boards such as SEEK and Indeed. That’s because the majority of suitable civil engineering, construction and surveying candidates will be employed and not actively applying for jobs (these are passive candidates).
Employers will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage when pitted against professional recruiters who have honed the craft of direct outreach and can gain access to thousands of passive candidates through their CRM database and LinkedIn Recruiter licenses.
Employers might want to consider partnering with specialized recruiters such as ConsultANZ in order to secure the industry’s best and brightest.
Recruitment Challenge 4: Employers should access the pool of migrant engineers already in the country
In Australia, only 50% of qualified engineers born overseas are currently working as engineers. The other half are either unemployed or working in other sectors, even after completing an often-lengthy accreditation process with Engineers Australia and obtaining full working rights.
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. But migrant Engineers from OMESC countries (Other than Majority English Speaking Countries) have high unemployment rates (Source: Engineers Australia, Barriers to employment for Migrant Engineers, 2021).
Many likely barriers to employment include a lack of local experience and professional network, as well as reluctance by business to employ skilled migrant workers.
Candidates with non-native English accents, even if they are proficient in English, 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.
In 2024, Employers should seriously consider tapping into the often-overlooked talent pool of skilled migrants. By broadening their recruitment strategies to include these individuals, companies may discover an array of excellent candidates who bring with them a wealth of diverse experiences, perspectives, and skills that are highly beneficial in today’s globalized business environment.
Recruitment Challenge 5: Some candidates won’t budge on work flexibility
Just last week construction giant Laing O’Rourke issued a statement that it will no longer support working from home as a standard arrangement from 2 April 2024.
Many companies around the World are revising their remote work policies, with a notable number directing their employees to return to the office. This shift often reflects a desire to reignite in-person collaboration, rebuild company culture, and enhance team dynamics that may have diluted during the extended period of remote work.
Despite this trend, there remains a significant cohort of employees who advocate for maintaining work flexibility, resisting the full return to pre-pandemic office routines.
Employees who have experienced the benefits of remote work, such as reduced commuting times, better work-life balance, and increased autonomy over their workday, are often reluctant to relinquish these advantages. For some, the ability to work remotely at least few days a week will become a key factor in job search in 2024.
Employers will need to find creative solutions to meet changing expectations without compromising project delivery.
Recruitment Challenge 6: Diversity and Inclusion
As societal focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) grows, companies in the engineering and construction sectors will need to address DEI not just as a compliance issue but as a strategic advantage. Attracting a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive culture will be key challenges for employers aiming to innovate and enhance their reputation.
In 2024, the search for top talent will be more complex and demanding than ever, as businesses strive to fill critical roles. The added dimension of seeking international candidates to bridge local skill gaps further complicates the recruitment process, requiring specialized knowledge and a global reach that many organizations may not possess internally.
By collaborating with ConsultANZ, employers can tap into a wider pool of talent, leveraging our tailored recruitment solutions and market knowledge to overcome the challenges of 2024. Whether it’s sourcing rare skills, engaging passive candidates, or facilitating the integration of international professionals into the local workforce, ConsultANZ is equipped to help employers not just meet but exceed their recruitment objectives.
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