As a wave of foreign workers continues to flood into local markets, the engineering profession in Australia is moving to set up a registration scheme which will verify the qualifications, experience and commitment to professional development of those registered and provide assurance of their expertise and professionalism.

Announcing the scheme, Engineers Australia chief executive officer Steve Durkin stressed his organisation supports skilled migration, but said the profession needed to ensure those engaging engineering services would be able to verify the competence and integrity of those whom they choose to engage. He added that this has become especially pertinent as increasing numbers of foreign workers arrive on temporary visas.

“We believe that our NER [National Engineering Register] will further improve the professional recognition and public trust of engineers in Australia and promote the role of EA in advancing the profession,” Durkin is quoted as saying in a Fairfax Media report.

As well as being open to members of the public, Durkin said the scheme will be linked with professional standards councils across different states and territories, and would also help governments to become informed buyers when engaging engineering services.

While Engineers Australia has been urging state and federal governments to adopt a registration system for the past 25 years – a concept Durkin said government representatives have been receptive to but had not seen as a priority – the new scheme comes amid a wave of foreign engineers working on projects within Australia.

In the March quarter of this year, a whopping 4,370 applications for 457 visas were lodged in the ‘professional, scientific and technical’ sector of the economy, according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection – up by more than a quarter (26.7 per cent) compared with the same period last year. Over that same period, applications for construction worker visas rose seven per cent to 3,430.

The announcement also comes as the signing of the detailed Free Trade Agreement with China is expected to open up opportunities for Australian engineers within China but could potentially see more Chinese engineers arrive on local shores.

These developments also come amid the signing of an international agreement which will facilitate the speedy recognition of engineers in Australia within international markets.

Signed by Engineers Australia as a founding signatory at a recent meeting of the International Engineering Alliance in Istanbul, the Agreement for International Engineering Technicians will see the creation of a register which those eligible for the Chartered Associate designation will be welcome to join as an attestation to their reaching of an agreed international standard of competence.

Under this concept, those recognised in one country as reaching the standard will be minimally assessed, primarily for local knowledge, prior to obtaining registration in another country that is party to the agreement.