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Australia – Uphill battle to bridge the engineering shortage

06 February 2014

Australia faces a skills shortage in the engineering industry in 2014. As a result of a recent slowdown in major infrastructure projects; local construction and engineering companies have been focusing on handling smaller projects and some of the more senior projects specialists have sought roles overseas or have retired, according to research from recruitment firm Calibrate Recruitment, part of the en world Group.

The lack of major projects in the last 12 months has also slowed the intake and development of the next generation of leaders in the industry. This is where Calibrate Recruitment believes the major issues lie for Australia in the medium-term.

The general slowdown has created an environment which has drastically affected the development of engineering at all levels. It is extremely difficult for graduate engineers to gain valuable work experience, and even those with more experience have not had the ability or opportunity to gain experience on large complex projects.   Calibrate Recruitment found that companies are struggling to find engineering talent with the following skills: -

  • Rail Infrastructure Engineering
  • Pavement Design Engineers
  • Asbestos/Hazardous Materials Consultants
  • Instrumentation & Controls Engineers / Managers
  • Manufacturing Plant Managers
  • Production Management
  • Power Engineering
  • Safety Managers/Engineers
  • Quantity Surveyors

Matt Gorrie, Head of Engineering at Calibrate Recruitment Pty Ltd, commented: “Many of Australia’s engineering employers are already suffering from engineering skills gaps, shortages of talent, and an ageing workforce. Last year we saw recruitment activity and salaries rise across several industries, due to ongoing growth and skills shortages. Hiring levels were particularly high within the oil and gas, rail engineering, and mining sectors; in line with the announcement of a number of major projects.”

“The level and gravity of skills shortages in such fields among Australian cities will only grow. The issue regarding the lack of engineering skills in Australia requires highly targeted policies not only from [the] Government but also [the] industry to essentially support an effective approach of training, retaining, and attracting engineering talent."

"If young engineers struggle to gain work experience, school leavers will be reticent to look at engineering as a career, whereas that seems to be a long term issue, we believe the impact on the industry really take effect in as little as five years. We as an industry cannot afford to be short sighted," Mr Gorrie added.

According to Calibrate Recruitment, with Australia’s economy looking as if it has turned a corner, the skills shortages in the sector will become more acute as demand increases. Australian companies and employers will need to develop and implement strategic recruitment techniques for local skilled engineers and overseas qualified workers alike. The issue of skill shortages in engineering in Australia has also led to companies investigating retention strategies for the purpose of keeping their best employees and workers.

En World add that “whereas many have lamented the slowing of the resources boom, some need to be careful what they wish for, should the economy really take off, the gap created by lack of investment during the down time will become a major issue.”

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