Infrastructure Sector Faces Further Job and Investment Woes

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Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
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According to the latest data released by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, job vacancies for the engineering profession have continued to decline in recent months.

Since November of last year, job vacancies for engineering professionals have declined in every state and territory by an average of seven per cent with the largest falls in the mining and resource states of Western Australia and Queensland.

There is a bigger picture however, says Engineers Australia chief executive officer Stephen Durkin.

“There are around 250,000 qualified engineers within Australia and mining is only the sixth largest-employer of the profession, with around 13,500 engineers.  While reduced vacancy rates are not positive news, we must be cautious not to overstate the economic implications of these current data,” he said.

“Mining and resource projects usually have a very high demand for engineering services during their early planning stages. The need for engineers naturally falls off as the projects reach the day-to-day operation phases, so we will always see some fluctuation in engineering employment across project life cycles in the resource sector.”

In the lead up to the federal election, Engineers Australia has said it is pleased to see that both major parties have recognised the importance of infrastructure to national success and is a strong supporter of the long-term approach provided by Infrastructure Australia.

Stephen Durkin

Stephen Durkin

“Without the long-term certainty that transparent project planning provides, engineers will either leave the profession or seek work overseas. With engineers in strong demand worldwide, this is a real risk for Australia as we aim to transition from a resource-based economy to a high-tech, high value economy,” Durkin said.

However, there is real concern for South Australia, where lack of economic stimulus by government has caused significant damage to the state’s infrastructure design industry. This is according to recent survey results released by industry association, Consult Australia.

The survey data has revealed over 80 per cent of South Australia’s infrastructure design firms have made targeted redundancies in the past six months with more expected before the end of 2013.

The same results showed a stalled intake of graduates with 82 per cent of firms indicating they did not anticipate recruiting any entry level employees for at least another six months.

A dismaying 100 per cent of respondents declared a lack of confidence in the industry’s future, claiming they do not feel federal or state governments have been doing enough to stimulate the economy.

Consult Australia’s South Australian state manager Jan Irvine warned that if securing a stable pipeline of work is not prioritised by the SA Government, the damage to the industry will become permanent.

“This is a critical loss, worsened by the fact that professionals are also moving interstate and overseas to seek work and, under current conditions, are unlikely to return,” she said.

“With the state’s services industry evaporating, the urgency with which governments needs to invest in those firms in the built environment is becoming increasingly critical. Without sufficient investment, soon local communities and indeed the entire state will see their infrastructure failing, with no one left to fix it.”

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