Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

How to Address the Engineering Shortage

By Archie Johnston

Shaping the future of a thriving Australia means addressing the national opportunity cost by building engineering capacity.

Professor Archie Johnston FTSE chairs the ATSE Education Forum and is Dean of Engineering and Information Technologies at The University of Sydney. He was National Chair of the Centre for Leadership and Management, Judging Panel member of the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes, and Chair of the Judging Panel for the Australian Construction Achievement Awards. He was the Sir John Holland 2007 Civil Engineer of the Year and 2007 Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year of the Business and Higher Education Roundtable.

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The shortfall in engineering skill capacity has far-reaching effects on the Australian economy – constraining innovation, increasing the cost of construction and maintenance of new and existing infrastructure, and preventing the nation from realising its productivity and growth potential.

The opportunity cost to the nation of chronic engineering capability shortages is significant. The issues are several:

• Shortages: 60% of engineering enterprises confirm engineering skill shortages and 63% are having difficulty attracting experienced staff. The impacts of these gaps have meant that $2.5 billion worth of road construction work has not proceeded and the lack of scoping expertise has caused cost over-runs of up to 20% on significant $100 billion projects.

• International: Australia educates substantially more scientists than engineers whereas nations with a strong innovation culture – like Japan and Korea – educate more engineers than scientists.

• Demand: The demand for professional engineers has increased from over 230,000 in 2001 to over 350,000 in 2010, a trend also evident in para-professional and trade markets.

• Supply: In 2010 Australia graduated more than 10,000 engineers (35% international students) and more than 4000 postgraduate (coursework) and almost 1000 postgraduate (research) graduates (both categories comprised 50%...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.