The winner of Engineers Australia's award for 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year has expressed his deep concerns over the lack of engineers in the country.
Matt Barrie, founder of online outsourcing giant Freelancer.com, said Australia already faces the problem of an insufficient number of engineers despite the outstanding potential of the country’s native talent pool.
“Australian engineers are up there with the world’s best, and the only problem is that we don’t have enough of them,” Barrie said in an interview with Dynamic Business.
Barrie said that while the technology sector appeals to many young minds because of the huge monetary rewards that can potentially be reaped by successful start-ups, they fail to realize that engineering is often the educational and career path which underpins the emergence of such companies.
“[School kids] see these big companies, they see Google, they see Facebook, but they can’t connect the dots on who starts these businesses,” he said.
The entrepreneur further decried the business focus and lack of technical know-how amongst ambitious young members of the tech sector.
Barrie, whose name is well known within the engineering profession as a lecturer and serial tech entrepreneur, received the award for Entrepreneur of the Year at the annual Engineering Excellence Awards held in Sydney toward the end of September – one of only four individual honours meted out at the prestigious event.
Upon receiving the award, Barrie, who is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, stressed the need for Australia to improve its education of budding engineers if the country is to compete internationally in the tech sector.
“It is a national imperative that we invest in STEM education to allow this level of innovation and excellence to continue,” he said.
Barrie’s remarks arrive at an inopportune time for the profession, however, with fresh engineering graduates facing a tough job market as a result of the slump in the mining sector – a mainstay employer of engineers in Australia.
Industry figures from September indicate that around half of the sector is scaling back recruitment while a quarter of firms are planning job cuts for existing staff.