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Engineers Australia’s Statistical Overview of the Engineering Profession report, launched this week at Parliament House, provides insights into the state of engineering in Australia.
The analysis, which draws on census data obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and includes for the first time an interactive tool for readers, highlights the important role engineers play in driving every sector of the economy while also revealing a deepening engineering skills crisis.
Romilly Madew AO FTSE HonFIEAust EngExec said the analysis highlights the important role engineers play in driving every sector of the economy while also revealing a deepening engineering skills crisis.
“This report shows a growing gulf, with Australia sliding towards a ‘new norm’ of an economy hampered by the engineering skills crisis,” she said.
“[It] serves as a critical resource for policy and decision-makers, offering insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the Australian engineering landscape.
Some of the report’s top-line insights include:
“The implications range from delays to nation-building projects, stifled productivity, and low growth; failing to reach our net-zero goals and missing out on the next wave of wealth creation in eco-technology and innovation,” Madew continued.
“Government, industry, the tertiary education sector, and professional associations must act now, working together to overcome challenges and greenlight action.”
The census is the largest single source of data for a whole-of-population snapshot that provides information on where engineers are, what they do, the industries they’re working in, and the profession as a whole, according to Peter Briggs GradIEAust, Advisor to the Chief Engineer.
“More than anything, we wanted to make the data accessible to our members and the wider community.”
Here are six insights from the data, covering aspects such as young engineers, women in engineering and engineers born overseas.
Australia’s engineering workforce tends toward the young.
The number of engineers aged 25-29 years who work part-time or full-time is 55,065, a number which increases for the 30-34 (60,783) and 35-39 age brackets (63,109).
“Engineering is a younger profession than I realised,” Briggs said. “Nearly half of Australia’s engineers today are under the age of 40 – that was a surprise to me.”
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Women in engineering continue to be outnumbered by men. Some of the biggest takeaways from the data include:
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The majority of Australia’s engineering workforce is born overseas, with 62.7 per cent of the qualified engineer population being born outside Australia.
The top three locations? India (65,112), China (39,190) and the United Kingdom (26,009).
The below graph shows the top 20 countries of origin for qualified engineers.
“Engineers Australia has known for a long time that Australia’s engineering capability relies on skilled migrants choosing to come to this country and bring their qualifications, experience and knowledge with them,” Briggs explained. “But it was surprising to see just how reliant on that overseas talent Australia has become.
“Over five years between 2016 and 2021, more than 70 per cent of the additional engineers added to Australia’s stock of engineering talent were born overseas.”
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While First Nations qualified engineers and those working in engineering occupations increased in all industries, they remain a small proportion of the engineering population at just 0.3 per cent.
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The breadth of industries in which engineers work is evident in the data.
One industry of note was financial services and insurance, which grew 55.3 per cent over the five years to 2021 – it was one of the fastest growing industries outside of more traditional areas such as civil or mechanical engineering.
“That’s significant growth,” Briggs said. “This tracks with what we have been hearing anecdotally that engineering graduates are numerate, highly teachable problem-solvers who are very desirable in finance, banking, insurance and related sectors.
“Financial and insurance services is now technically a core engineering industry.”
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On the topic of engineering graduates, the data reveals that:
It is expected that low growth in domestic commencements relative to the population will limit the supply of Australian engineers over the short term.
Access the full data and discover further insights into the future of engineering in Australia.
Lachlan Haycock is a journalist and translator who has written for publications in Australia and abroad. His passion for all things Indonesian is second only to the accurate use of apostrophes on public signage.
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