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Addressing Australia's Engineering Talent Shortage: Practical Approaches

Posted on January 2024 By LVI Associates

Female Engineer and technician

The shortage of skilled engineers in Australia is a pressing concern shared by everyone involved in infrastructure development. This deficit is hampering the country's ability to execute crucial infrastructure projects effectively.

KPMG's Annual Leadership Survey underscores a major worry among leaders, with up to 77% losing sleep over the challenge of finding the right talent. Similarly, a report by Professionals Australia titled “Engineering a Better Future” estimates a shortfall of 200,000 engineering professionals.

Elizabeth Pugh, Associate Director at LVI Associates Australia, shares her insights on this engineering profession gap and delves into how organisations can overcome it by leveraging international talent. Read about her observations below:

There's a general consensus that international engineers play a crucial role in bridging the immediate skill gap. However, the focus on nurturing local talent through education and enhancing the profession's appeal is equally important for long-term solutions.

The debate intensifies around optimally utilising overseas talent, with barriers still in place. Dr. Maryam Raji from Melbourne University's Faculty of Business and Economics emphasises the need for educational reforms and increased professional attractiveness to develop local talent. She refers to Engineering Australia’s report to the Department of Home Affairs, which reveals that 70% of engineers in Australia are international-born, yet many are either unemployed or not working in their field.

My experience as a professional services engineering recruiter in Australia confirms this. Frequently, international engineers with extensive global experience are overlooked due to their lack of familiarity with Australian building codes and regulations.

Common reasons for rejection include:

  1. Time constraints: Firms often lack the time to train new hires on local regulations due to pressing project deadlines.

  2. Fear of talent loss: Concerns that trained engineers might leave for competitors.

  3. Negative assumptions: Doubts about international engineers' ability to adapt to local market regulations.

As a practical and business-oriented manager, I understand these concerns, but it's clear that Australia could better leverage international engineering talent. A national, or even organisational-wide, integrated strategy could help to address these challenges.

Solutions include:

  1. Conversion courses: Creating a mandatory framework for educating and testing experienced engineers on Australian building and regulatory requirements, similar to initiatives in healthcare and legal sectors.

  2. Positive workplace culture for retention: Ensuring a supportive work environment is essential for retaining all employees, regardless of their origin.

  3. Dispelling myths: Recognising the value of international engineers who have successfully adapted and contributed in various countries, including Australia.

In short, there are likely many other viable solutions to this persistent and growing issue. What other strategies could effectively address Australia's engineering talent gap? My team and I at LVI Associates welcome any additional insights or suggestions, and if you are facing challenges attracting top talent, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Elizabeth Pugh
Associate Director - Australia

Associate Director - Elizabeth, heads up the Australian and Southeast Asian Engineering talent space. She and her team are well-versed in the nuanced requirements of the region and are well-equipped to help organisations across all parts of engineering businesses.

LVI Associates' proven track record in connecting talented individuals with outstanding organisations ensures that we help you source the best talent available. Start a conversation about your talent needs today.