According to the latest data released by the Department of Employment, job vacancies for engineers in Australia have experienced 30 consecutive months of decline, starting from December 2011.

The department’s July 2014 Vacancies Report indicates that empty job spots for members of the engineering profession in June 2014 fell by 0.8 per cent in trend terms to 3,033. This figure is well below a quarter the number of employment opportunities available to engineers in December 2011, before the 30-month run of job declines began. At the end of 2011, Australia suffered from an acute engineering skills shortage, with over 13,000 job vacancies in the sector.

While total employment opportunities for engineers have fallen throughout Australia, the picture varies considerably from state to state, with NSW and the Northern Territory logging modest gains in the three months from April to June, and Tasmania seeing a surge in April and May, when job vacancies surged by more than six per cent.

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South Australia logged the biggest employment decline from April to June, with job vacancies for engineers falling by more than four per cent every month. Queensland and Western Australia also saw three months of consecutive negative growth during the April to June period.

NSW remains the state with the large number of vacancies with 1,017 in trend terms, or 33.5 per cent of the national total. Queensland comes in second with 664 vacancies, or 21.9 per cent of the total, followed by Western Australia and Victoria with 593 (19.6 per cent) and 557 (18.4 per cent) vacancies respectively.

The four states collectively account for 93.4 per cent of all engineering job vacancies throughout Australia.

This data from the Department of Employment is consistent with the findings from Engineers Australia’s Recruitment Difficulties Survey from earlier this year, which indicated that the proportion of employers struggling to source engineers had fallen to its lowest level in the eight years since figures have been released.

More than a third (34 per cent) of employers indicated that they had experienced difficulties on a very low base of vacancies, as compared with 53 per cent at the peak of the GFC, and more than three quarters of employers just prior to it.

Stephen Durkin

Stephen Durkin

Engineers Australia CEO Stephen Durkin said these dismal jobs figures exemplify the need for the country to exercise greater foresight with respect to infrastructure planning, in order to smooth out the highly cyclical nature of employment in the engineering sector.

“This trend of booms followed by busts is a direct result of Australia’s historical approach to infrastructure investment,” he said. “Engineers Australia strongly believes we need a long term, co-ordinated and planned approach rather than a fragmented, project-driven approach to deliver on the federal government’s ambitious infrastructure agenda.”