Engineering professionals throughout Australia are cashing in on a jobs boom as a record pipeline of road and rail construction work drives demand for skills, the latest report says.
As outlined below, the July to December Hays Jobs Report produced by recruitment firm Hays says demand for workers is strong across many areas across civil engineering, structural engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering and safety (see below).
The report comes as other data paints an encouraging picture.
In May, job vacancies for civil engineers stood at 2,113, according to the Department of Employment, Skills and Small and Family Business.
That’s lower than the 2,353 vacancies reported in May last year but is well above the 1,600 vacancies recorded three years ago in May 2016 or the 1,053 vacancies reported five years ago in May 2014.
Likewise vacancies for electrical engineers and industrial engineers both sit at historically elevated levels (see chart); those for mining engineers have tripled over the past three years.
Salaries, too, are rising.
In its latest report, job search web site SEEK named engineering amongst the five top sectors for year-on-year growth in terms of average salaries for positions advertised on its site.
In data provided to Sourceable, SEEK indicated that average salaries for roles advertised on its site had surged by 13 percent over the past year (May 2018 V May 2019) in the case of automotive engineers and by 9 percent for chemical engineers.
Meanwhile, industrial engineers, water engineers, environmental engineers, process engineers, maintenance engineers, electrical engineers and materials handling engineers had all pulled in average salary increases which exceeded the 3.5 percent overall average which was recorded across all roles advertised on SEEK across all sectors (refer chart).
Around Australia, the market for engineers has extremely strong amid record levels of investment in road and rail infrastructure.
All up, ABS figures indicate that $82.111 billion worth of engineering construction work was commenced by the private sector over the year to March.
This is on par with the elevated value of commencements in the year to March last year and is well about the $58.761 billion, $55,248 billion and $50.670 billion commenced in the year to March in 2017, 2016 and 2015 respectively.
Going forward, the future is promising as the boom in transport construction is expected to continue to rise before peaking in the early part of the next decade.
At $20.762 billion (as at March 31), the value of work yet to be done on road construction sits at record levels and has more than doubled over the past four years, according to ABS data.
At $11.648 billion and $7.487 billion respectively, the value of work yet to be done on both railways and electricity assets also sits at record levels in original dollar terms (not adjusted for inflation) and has more than doubled in the past two years.
In its report, Hays notes that further shortages in qualified professionals are likely to emerge.
It says this is especially the case the current infrastructure boom has been forecasts to run for longer than the mining boom yet the supply of suitably qualified candidates is already failing to meet demand in some areas.
Hotspots of Demand
According to Hays, Hotspots of demand across the civil, structural electrical, environmental and sustainability areas are as set out below.
Australia’s civil engineering market is leading activity, driving up vacancies for engineering experts across the country. It has been forecast that the infrastructure boom could last longer than the mining boom, and already supply often fails to meet demand.
Looking at specific locations, within Western Australia skill shortages in engineering (and construction) will intensify dramatically once the Metronet and major mining projects kick off.
New South Wales will also see high demand for talent in response to State Government investment in roads, rail and current projects. Civil and rail specialists will therefore be in high demand.
Queensland is another active market, driven by population growth and land development, as is Melbourne following the increase in civil projects across the state.
Meanwhile, government investment in the highway network is driving activity in Tasmania, strong growth has been evident in South Australia, and the Northern Territory is seeing hotspots of demand.
Given vacancy activity across the country, demand will be high for Qualified Civil Engineers with experience in the design and delivery of traditional road infrastructure projects and road safety projects. Candidates must also possess strong soft skills to be successful.
This is a significant shift; historically employers favoured technical skills, but they have come to recognise that the greatest influence on the success or failure of a project is usually a candidate’s ability to manage multiple stakeholders, solve problems and communicate effectively.
Civil Engineers and Civil Drafters with experience in greenfield and brownfield subdivisions who can work on developments around the major infrastructure projects in Sydney’s West are required. Candidates with DRAINS, MUSIC and HEC-RAS experience are also in demand.
In Queensland, Engineers, Drafters and 12D Designers with land development experience are sought. Queensland’s urban development and subdivision market is growing strongly given the continual movement of people to South East Queensland. 12D Designers are also sought in South Australia.
Senior Civil Engineers with NPER or CPEng accreditation are required to oversee project design and sign off. In Queensland, companies seek those with RPEQ to sign off projects.
Queensland is also seeing demand for Civil and Structural Engineers with 12D expertise and subdivision and land development project experience.
Civil Design Engineers are required for residential and commercial subdivisions and civil infrastructure design. Experience with Civil 3D software is as desirable as 12D software in NSW.
Demand from consultancies exists predominantly at the intermediate level for those with urban development and subdivision experience. 12D is more commonly used on highway projects than Civil 3D.
An increase in civil infrastructure across irrigation, utilities, water, wastewater, roads and bridges creates demand for civil Project Managers. Employers look for chartered candidates. In Tasmania in particular, significant government investment in the state highway network leads to demand for civil Project Managers, as well as structural Project Managers.
Water Engineers will be needed in both the public and private sectors. In NSW, successful candidates have Sydney Water accreditation. The exception is for Water Servicing Coordinators and Drafters.
Candidates with experience working to Sydney Water standards and Section 73 are highly desirable to companies who look after projects in water, waste and sewage.
In Western Australia, large projects are underway and have led to candidate movement. The state is also seeing a shortage of Water Engineers who specialise in mining projects.
Traffic Modellers are another area of demand for government related work. However, employers use one of many different software packages, including VISSIM, VISUM, SIDRA and EMME. Employers typically look for a candidate with relevant previous software experience and are willing to consider overseas candidates in the traffic and transport space.
Road and Traffic Engineers are sought to work on major infrastructure and transport upgrades. Given the high volume of projects, the supply of quality candidates fails to match demand. To be successful, candidates must be well versed in Australian traffic standards and have experience undertaking safety audits, traffic management and public transport planning.
In Queensland, Traffic Engineers with experience in development approvals are required.
In Victoria, there is also a huge demand for Traffic, Highways, Bridge, Water and Rail Engineers in response to major infrastructure and transport upgrade works, such as the Level Crossing Removal, highway upgrades, West Gate Tunnel Project and Metro Tunnel Project. However, there is a shortage of candidates with experience working within a Government organisation producing traffic management plans and engaging with the community in relation to traffic issues. There is also a shortage of candidates who understand Australian traffic standards in addition to those with experience working in consultancies who can design or deliver in the private sector.
Geotechnical Engineers at a senior level are sought by specialist ground engineering consultancies as well as multi-disciplinary national consultancies who have state-specific experience. Candidates with both site investigation and design experience on FLAC and Plaxis software are desirable, especially if they’ve worked across infrastructure and residential developments.
Quality Signalling Engineers in both design and delivery are needed for rail projects. Given the supply shortage, employers will attract Electrical Engineers from other disciplines and train them in rail signalling. They may also look at candidates who have filled similar roles in building services and energy.
Finally, Systems Assurance professionals are in short supply across Australia. With the industry wanting to move on to new standards as ETCS Level 2, CBTC and ATP technologies are implemented, there’s not enough engineers in the country with the relevant experience to deliver these projects.
We therefore expect employers to look overseas for relevant professionals and then act to ensure the infrastructure is in place to train the next generation of Australian System Assurance professionals.
The structural engineering market is steady in New South Wales and Victoria, with Engineers and Drafters needed to work on Sydney Metro, Light Rail, residential, health and aged care projects across Sydney and Melbourne.
Structural Engineers are in great demand, particularly senior candidates who can hit the ground running and lead a team. Chartered Senior Engineers who can bring business to an organisation are also highly sought after.
Façade Engineers are in high demand too as Sydney’s existing building facades fall into disrepair and are upgraded. With new materials being used, sustainability and technology is becoming more important to occupants. Consequently, façade engineers are a high priority area for consultancies.
Remedial Engineers will be in greater demand, with the role itself becoming more common as existing buildings and structures age.
Structural Drafters with Revit Structures experience remain highly sought after. Candidates with experience from the UK possess transferrable skills in 3D modelling, often crossing over with the MEP space in a more holistic way. Candidates with local post-graduate experience are sought.
ESD Engineers are an area of extreme candidate shortage.
Electrical Engineers are in growing demand in the mining, manufacturing and OEM sector due to the resurgence of the mining industry.
Fire and Hydraulic Engineers are in particularly short supply. Demand will increase further as large metro and station projects move into design and construct phases in both Sydney and Melbourne.
Demand is high in Western Australia for contaminated land specialists. Such candidates are in short supply, but demand continues to grow in both consultancies and the mining sector.
These candidates are also needed in Melbourne’s private sector, as are major infrastructure Environmental Project Managers. Employers look for candidates with roads, rail or civil project experience.
Experienced Environmental Engineers with major civil and roads project experience are also sought. Given increased major project spending, which involves multiple government agency cross-over, this trend will continue.
In addition, a shift in mindset has taken place, with more government departments favouring candidates with extensive private sector experience rather than a government background. This is a positive trend as it increases the candidate pool, allowing employers to attract and recruit top talent.
Environmental GIS and spatial analytics (water and parks) has been an area of steady and constant demand within public sector departments and agencies.
Sustainability professionals are an emerging area of demand. This demand started to emerge 12 months ago in response to increasing social awareness and the growing focus on reducing plastic use. Consequently, candidates with experience in sustainability initiatives, particularly in local government, are in increasing demand. With various council’s trialling waste and plastic reduction strategies, this demand is only expected to continue to grow.
Sustainability Consultants within the private sector are also sought for road, rail and civil projects.