Skills shortage reaches crisis levels for Australian engineering industry

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

Australia’s engineering industry is heading towards collapse unless the current skills shortage is addressed, experts warn.

New research by Engineers Australia has highlighted the concerning state of Australia’s engineering industry.

The Statistical Overview of the Engineering Profession report shows Australia’s engineering skills and labour shortage is at the highest level in more than a decade.

Demand for engineering talent is significantly outpacing supply, with the need for more engineers growing three times faster than the general workforce.

And despite a significant increase in qualified engineers in the five years before 2021, labour shortages are now reported in several critical industries, including construction, renewable energy and power systems.

The new data has concerned experts, with Australia requiring more than half a million engineers as part of its day-to-day operations, many of whom are integral to Australia’s critical industries and complex infrastructure needs.

Build-it’s engineer stats:

  • Over 20% of Australia’s qualified engineers are not in the labour force.
  • Up to 68,133 engineers will retire over the next 15 years
  • Engineers born overseas comprise 62.7% of the qualified engineer population
  • Australian-born women make up just 3.8% of the total engineering-qualified population
  • Engineers choosing part-time work is increasing faster than those in full-time positions.

Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO says the report highlighted the vital role engineers will continue to play as the nation embraces technological change and will allow governments to address critical issues within the engineering industry.

“As the world continues to embrace technology and systems, becoming more sophisticated and interdependent, our economy and society are more reliant than ever on the engineering profession,” Ms Madew said.

“The report serves as a critical resource for policy and decision-makers, offering insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the Australian engineering landscape,” Ms Madew said.

In light of the report’s findings, Engineers Australia calls for urgent government action to coordinate national efforts towards increasing the number of engineers.

The nation’s peak engineering industry body says changes are needed to boost graduate numbers, retain workers and address the number of engineers set to retire in the coming years.

“This report reveals a growing gulf, with Australia sliding towards a ‘new norm” of an economy hampered by an engineering skills shortage,” Ms Madew warned.

“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.”

The research highlighted concerns regarding the number of engineering students coming through the tertiary education system, with low growth in domestic engineering degree commencements relative to the population likely to limit the supply of engineers in the coming years.

It also showed improvements are needed to better balance gender equality within the industry, with only 14 per cent of the current engineering workforce female.

Industry retention was another area highlighted, with more than 20 per cent of the nation’s qualified engineers not currently employed in the workforce and an additional 3,200 engineers leaving the profession entirely each year.

More skilled migrants could ease worker woes

The lack of domestically produced engineers has also left Australia battling other nations to import skilled migrant engineers, with most of the nation’s engineering workforce now coming from overseas.

Ms Madew says Engineers Australia are ready to assist governments in addressing the skills shortage to help meet Australia’s engineering needs.

“Government, industry, the tertiary education sector, and professional associations must act now, working together to overcome challenges and greenlight action.”

Share This Article
Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.