High school certificates support the next generation of engineers

By Jarrod
5 Min Read

Queensland engineers are recognising exceptional high school students studying engineering subjects in a bid to increase interest in the profession. 

Engineers Australia have worked with teachers and schools to present senior students who achieved more than 90 per cent on their internal assessments with “engineering excellence certificates”. 

With the first students receiving theirs last week, Engineers Australia Queensland General Manager Stacey Rawlings says the program aims to further promote the profession to interested students and to increase their awareness of career opportunities in the field. 

“This year we’ve issued 179 certificates to the next generation of Queensland engineers from across 39 schools,” said Ms Rawlings. 

“Each of the award recipients have shown exciting potential for a career in engineering. It’s great to see so many talented students interested in our sector.” 

Engineers Australia spoke to two participants, Charlotte and Kade, about their hopes for a career in the industry.  

Kade said the idea of watching your thoughts turn into a refined physical prototype or product that can be used inspired him to choose engineering as a subject.  

“I will be studying Mechanical Engineering at UniSC and that same idea inspired me to pursue the school subject. The idea of making my own thoughts into a reality, will continue to motivate me until I finish my degree and continue to pursue engineering in the workforce,” he said. 

Charlotte says she chose engineering as a subject on a whim. She originally thought she would go into medicine but briefly mentioned engineering in an interview with her career advisor and was enrolled in the subject. 

“I’m so grateful for her [careers advisor] encouraging my interests, as it evolved into me choosing a career in the field.” 

She has now chosen to do a double degree in engineering and architecture at QUT. 

“I am motivated to study engineering as it will enable me in the future to do something that requires problem solving and collaboration. These factors will enable growth in my understanding of knowledge and facilitate personal development,” Charlotte said. 

Following the success of the engineering student recognition program, Engineers Australia Queensland will continue the program next year, with Ms Rawlings hoping the certificates continue to “encourage and inspire” bright young minds to join the engineering profession. 

An engineering shortage

The certificate program comes only months after Professionals Australia released a report predicting a skills shortage of 200,000 engineers by 2040, with the labour shortage being higher now than it has been for over a decade. 

Demand for engineering skills is rapidly outpacing supply despite an increase in qualified engineers from 2016 to 2021 – three times faster than the general workforce. 

Despite “strong employment outcomes”, a 90 per cent job satisfaction and one of Australia’s highest starting salaries of $71,500 pa, only 8.5 per cent of Australian graduates have an engineering qualification – sixth lowest in the OECD.

Professionals Australia’s CEO Jill McCabe said the report exposes inequality in the workforce and should raise alarm bells for many industry sectors.

“A shortfall of 200,000 engineers by 2040 threatens Australia’s capacity to deliver major infrastructure projects, large-scale transformation of the energy sector and intensified technological innovation across the economy,” said McCabe. 

“Women are starkly underrepresented in engineering at the higher education level and in the workforce.

“Less than two in ten engineering students and professionals are female, making engineering one of the most male-dominated professions that require a university degree.

“While engineering is the largest STEM field nationally in terms of its workforce size, it has the lowest proportion of women.

Lindsay Nash, a practising civil engineer and President of the Engineering Division of Professionals Australia, said the current education system is failing the next generation of workers. 

“Australia is not producing enough engineers to meet our nation’s projected demands. Our current education system is failing to support a sufficient number of students to study and complete an engineering degree,” said Ms Nash. 

“Compared with other OECD nations, Australia trains an insufficient number of engineers, with just 8.5 per cent of Australian university graduates receiving engineering degrees compared with over 12 per cent in Canada and over 23 per cent in Germany.

“We need to increase the overall proportion of engineering graduates in Australia, and this requires more support for students to not only start but complete engineering degrees.”

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By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.