The Talent War for Engineers in Australia.

Australia’s ambition is to become an innovative, technically progressive and globally competitive nation. And no other profession embodies the spirit of innovation like engineering. Engineers are constantly discovering new ways to improve our way of living to meet the demands of the 21st century.  

However, the nation is currently facing enormous challenges. While demand for experienced engineers is overwhelming, employers are struggling to find skilled engineering candidates. This is predominantly due to the threat of the global pandemic.  

So, how is Australia dealing with these challenges and how can they overcome them?

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Supporting Australia's COVID recovery through Skilled Migration

In 2010, policy changes to the skilled stream of the Migration Program were designed to shift the focus from ‘supply driven’ independent skilled migration towards ‘demand driven’ migrants, in the form of employer and government-sponsored skilled migration.  The program aims to better target the skills critical in the economy and ensure skilled migrants employed in industries, such as engineering, obtain the most support.  

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions saw a continued trend of high demand in the engineering sector, with Australian immigration expected to see a post-pandemic boom once borders are reopened. 

The Department of Home Affairs believes their 2020-2021 Migration Program Skill stream will focus on visa categories to help Australia’s economy rebound from COVID-19.  Visa groups, like engineers, are given priority as they provide investment, talent, and critical skills to Australia. They are also well positioned to assist Australia’s economic recovery.

In further positive news, The Migration Program also specifies Priority Migration Skilled Occupations, which includes electrical, civil, structural, geotechnical, transport and mining engineers.  These occupations are to be given priority processing. 

 

Access to talent beyond boundaries

The engineering sector in Australia is excessively dependent on skilled migration.  Report data shows 57% of engineers working in Australia were born overseas, compared with 40% in other professions. 

However, with international borders closed indefinitely, relying on overseas talent to amplify our already light talent pool isn’t viable. The worsening skills shortage - exacerbated by the pandemic - means local businesses have limited access to overseas talent. Frequent domestic border closures aren’t helping either.

Employers are now being forced to reconsider how and where they source talent.  Adapting to this ever-changing landscape is essential if businesses want to flourish. This may mean exploring new talent pools and utilising a ‘passive talent pool’ approach that includes:

  • hiring those returning to the workforce after a career break
  • identifying workers with transferable skills
  • upskilling current employees

Employers can adopt the above to ensure they can fill essential roles with top quality candidates.

 

The rise of the Australian contract engineer

As Australia looks to invest in infrastructure over the next 10 years, we are seeing a surge of the contracting trend in the engineering sector. Driven by an abundance of project-based work, engineers are now choosing to engage with companies on a short-term basis. The ramp up of rail infrastructure such as the Sydney Metro West saw a sharp increase in the use of short-term contracts to keep project budgets in control.  

 

Contracting works well for engineers, as a major part of their life cycle is project management. Short-term projects that demand a specific skill set allows companies to have access to expertise, without having to make teams redundant when projects reach completion. Other advantages of contract work includes:

  • higher salary per contract or per hour for the employee
  • companies saving money - contract employees are cheaper to manage than a full-time employee
  • improving workforce flexibility

Retaining your top talent

The engineering talent shortage has emerged as a huge risk factor for companies. In such an ultra-competitive market, proactively retaining the top performers has become a key point of strategic emphasis. Here are three things to improve retention levels:

    • Retrain to retain -  providing training and development opportunities in-house and retraining or upskilling existing workers is a great way to resolve the skills gap issue
    • Boosting benefits - offering a range of benefits that meaningfully impact your employees’ quality of life will be highly valued. Popular incentives include flexible remote work options, on-site amenities such as gyms and childcare, and half day Fridays
    • Keeping your pay competitive - employers should be up to date with current pay rates in order to stay competitive. Companies can also evaluate the cost of living in the area to make sure what’s being offered is reasonable. 

For more ways to retain talent, read our suggestions here.

About CGC Recruitment

CGC Recruitment is a specialist construction, infrastructure, engineering, and architecture recruitment consultancy. We view our clients as our partners and work closely with them to meet their business needs. We work with some of Australia’s largest construction brands through to specialist SME’s and boutique consultants. We have proven experience delivering permanent, contract and retained recruitment solutions, consistently providing the right candidates for the right roles at the right time.

 

If you have an active role you’d like to discuss or just want to talk to a specialist consultant, please contact us. Alternatively, you can complete our online client form and a member of our team will contact you.