A marked decline in major infrastructure projects threatens to leave Australia with a shortage of engineers.

According to HR firm Calibrate Recruitment Australia faces an imminent shortage of skilled engineers as a result of the recent decline in key infrastructure projects, which has compelled some senior personnel to either retire or pursue better opportunities abroad.

Matt Gorrie

Matt Gorrie

Matt Gorrie, head of engineering at Calibrate Recruitment, said that engineering employers already face a shortage of talent as a result of ageing personnel and a shrinking talent pool, which has improved conditions for those engineers who remain on the market.

According to Gorrie recruitment activity and salaries increased in several sectors last year as a result of the worsening skills shortages, including oil and gas, rail engineering and mining.

Calibrate Recruitment cited numerous areas where companies are currently experiencing difficulty in sourcing qualified engineering professionals, including rail infrastructure, pavement design, power engineering, safety managers, hazardous materials consultants, and instrumentation and controls engineers.

The decline in major projects threatens to exacerbate a medium-to-long term shortfall in skilled engineers, by both deterring young hopefuls from pursuing careers in the field with poor jobs prospects, and failing to provide budding members of the profession with key work experience and growth opportunities.

Graduate engineers are facing difficulty in acquiring critical experience at the outset of their careers, while those engineers who have been in the profession for a little longer struggle to find opportunities for development on more complex, large-scale projects.

Gorries points out that Australia could suffer from an acute engineering skills shortage in as little as five years as a result of these factors, and warns that industry “cannot afford to be short sighted.”

His remarks echo those recently made by peak professional body Engineers Australia, which warned that the gross fluctuations in government spending on infrastructure projects creates a boom/bust cycle and employment uncertainty for engineers.

According to Stephen Durkin, CEO of Engineers Australia, this boom/bust cycle has “[damaged] Australia’s ability to build a sustainable domestic professional workforce.”