Engineering skills shortage hits decade high

by Helena Morgan
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The ‘Engineering Profession: A Statistical Overview’’ report published by Engineers Australia has offered an insight into the sobering reality of Australia’s engineering workforce. 

While arguing that Australia risks falling victim to a damaging engineering skills shortage, Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO was quick to underscore the invaluable role engineers play in contributing to current and future economic growth, when she addressed those in attendance at the Parliament House launch of the report. 

Madew praised the recently released report as a vital resource for policy and decision-makers tasked with responding to the obstacles plaguing the Australian engineering landscape. 

Engineers Australia is also offering anyone who is interested unprecedented access to the report’s data via an online dashboard

A new norm

The engineering profession has never been more essential and sought after as the world continues to adopt new and more sophisticated technologies. 

Australia is currently turning to the expertise of half a million qualified engineers to combat climate change challenges such as clean energy transition, alongside galvanising sustainable urban development into action. 

However, Madew lamented that this need for engineers is not deemed a priority of concern by government, industry and the tertiary education sector. 

This report reveals a growing gulf, with Australia sliding towards a ‘new norm’ of an economy hampered by an engineering skills shortage,” said Madew.

The CEO said that a deepening of the engineering skills crisis could mean delayed nation-building projects, stalled productivity and progress, minimal growth and falling short of net-zero goals. 

“We also risk missing out on the next wave of wealth creation in eco-technology and innovation,” said Madew. 

Main revelations

Australia’s engineering skills and labour shortage has reached its highest level in over a decade, as the need for engineers is outrunning the supply. 

While the number of qualified engineers increased in the years between 2016 and 2021, demand is surging at three times the rate of the general workforce. 

Defence, clean energy, power systems and construction are struggling to source engineers to assist in responding to the challenges of their respective industries.

Problematic statistics

The report identifies numerous areas of action, including increasing the visibility of women and First Nations people in engineering, dismantling barriers that disadvantage migrant engineers, amplifying the voice of engineers in the public sphere and taking greater initiatives to nurture engineering graduates. 

Specific statistics illustrate the urgent need to address these areas of concern – only 14 percent of working engineers in Australia are women and 0.3 percent of qualified engineers are from First Nations backgrounds. 

Additionally, there is a five percent attrition rate in the first year of tertiary study for engineering, compounded by a further 20 percent attrition rate in later years, suggesting a lack of support and mentoring. 

Overall, Engineers Australia is empowered to cooperate with governments and industries to strategise a national action plan to steer Australia away from a possibly catastrophic engineering skills shortage. 

Arup recently became the first engineering firm approved to verify green bonds in Asia Pacific.

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