Australia faces uphill battle to deal with shortage of engineers in 2014

Australia faces skill shortages in the engineering industry in 2014.

Among the skills in short supply are: instrumentation & controls engineers / managers; manufacturing plant managers; production management; power engineering; and safety managers/ engineers.

Obviously, the effective delivery of essential infrastructure is determined by the availability of experienced, local engineering staff with experience in major infrastructure projects.

These experienced individuals are needed at all stages of project implementation – from planning to design, construction to operation.

As a result of a slowdown recently in Australia of major infrastructure projects, local construction and engineering companies have been focusing on handling smaller projects. As a result some of the more senior, projects specialists have sort roles overseas or have retired.

The lack of major projects, in the last 12 months, has also slowed the intake and nurturing of the next generation of leaders in the industry. This is where we believe the major issue lies for Australia in the mid-term.

The general slowdown has created an environment which has drastically effected the development of engineering at all level. It is extremely difficult for graduate engineers to gain valuable work experience and the more experienced have not had the ability or opportunity to gain experience on large complex projects. 

As Australia moves into 2014 there are a number of major projects being announced and as we move into more positive economic climates and projects increase we will definitely feel the impact of the recent slowdown through skill shortages.

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 said “Many of the 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 rose 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 skill 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 Government but also 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, where as that seems to be a long term issue we believe the impact on the industry really take effect in as little as 5 years. We as an industry cannot afford to be short sighted." said Gorrie.

With Australia’s economy looking as if it has turned a corner, the engineering industry will quickly become greatly affected by the shortage of skilled engineering workers.

As a result, Australian companies and employers will need to develop and implementing strategic recruitment techniques for local skilled engineers and overseas qualified workers alike.

The issue of skill shortages in engineering in Australia also led to companies investigating retention strategies for the purpose of keeping their best employees and workers.

Still, this doesn’t address the large issue; there are still shortages of effective and high quality candidates and applicants for engineering roles, particularly those positions that require specific experiences and high leadership skills.

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