Skills Shortage for Civil Engineers and Civil Engineering Consultants/Civil Engineering Services
According to a number of universities and other sources there is a large shortage of civil engineers and civil engineering consultants in Australia and this goes hand in hand with the number of engineering graduates which fall well short of current demand trends. This is good for civil engineering consultants and civil engineering graduates but bad for the companies who need their services!
With the mining activity in QLD, NT and WA civil engineers are in large demand and employers are either resorting to big dollars or creating new ways to hire civil engineers. There is expected to be high demand throughout 2011, although questions are being asked about how Australia will fare after a feared USA 'melt down' following the Standard and Poors downgrade of their AAA rating in August 2011. Effects were clearly shown in the ASX share indexes, which fell after immediately after, and indicated a "fear" within the marketplace. How this fear impacts on the jobs marketplace remains to be seen (at the time of writing), but uncertainty and panic selling in the stock market is very evident.
The change in policy regarding 457 visas and Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs) is expected to reduce some of the professional resources shortages, with numerous states being awarded additional sponsorship allowances and the implementation of further recommendations of the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce. For example, recommendation 31 provides for EMAs which must include training measures to reduce the reliance on overseas workers and to increase the skills of the Australian workforce. With the migration of workers to the mining industry, shortages are felt in other sectors such as construction and local government, etc. However, the EMA project owner will have to demonstrate that there is a genuine need for overseas workers, and that the overseas worker will be paid as well as an Australian thus not placing pressure on Australian salaries.
Bumper Year For Job Seekers and Consultancies
Civil engineers are concerned with all types of structures – from roads, buildings, bridges, pipelines; airports, transportation systems; infrastructure (railways, harbours, airports, hospitals, schools) etc but they also get involved in the design and construction sectors in relation to things like our utilities (gas, power, water, waste, etc. They are involved in small project as well as large scale mining, resources and infrastructure projects, as well as environmental, pollution control, etc. They work in the private sector as consulting engineers providing civil engineering consulting services. However, demand for these services tend to fluctuate according to market forces in the mining, resources and construction industries.
2011 looks set to be a bumper year for job seekers, civil engineering consultancies and civil engineering contracting firms.
According to Engineers Australia the number of engineering graduates flat-lined at around 5000 a year and only recently have numbers increased to 6,000. The statistics show that 52% of the Australian engineering labour force was born overseas. All indicators show that engineering sector will continue to experience growth due to major infrastructure projects and the resources sectors.
Is This True – Local Content Report Shows Investment in Resource Based Investment in Decline?
According to DOIR in its Prospect June 2011 edition, whilst investment in the WA State Mineral and petroleum resources is growing, local suppliers in the engineering and design sectors are showing a decline in demand. However, the Local Content Report indicates that the reason for this is the grand scale of major projects which means that the work goes off shore where suppliers can 'cope' with the demand. Advances in transport, telecommunications and construction technologies overseas also contribute to this move overseas. The trend away from local suppliers is of concern but current procurement practices include the use of engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contractors based offshore, with reliance on global supply chains to meet the demands of the more recent mega projects.
Government Response to Overseas Investment
There are many State Government policies and instruments that support local content obligations to ensure that local goods and services are given the opportunity to compete. However, the trend to move overseas is not being reversed with figures demonstrating a significant fall from 72% in 2004 to just 45–55% for the Pluto and Gorgon Projects in WA. Trends in other states are showing the same decline.
The State and Federal Governments around Australia are taking a closer look and are more frequently engaging with the major resource proponents in dialogue about procurement practices in a hope to reverse the current trends.
Finding Civil Engineering Service Providers
Civil engineers can work independently as consultants or they are generally attached to a consulting firm or construction/contracting company. These professionals provide a range of services for construction activities as well as residential/commercial and as support to the major resources sectors. Their inputs are important and critical to determining the quality of construction activities. In addition to the obvious services they provide they also undertake a significant portion of project management and supervision roles.
The Winning Formula – Strong Service Delivery Culture
There are many good news stories about Australian Civil Engineering Contracting service providers and consultancies; the key appears to be strong service delivery cultures with many creating niche markets or specialty services. Good track records go a long way to being included on sought after tender lists for the key projects. However, most are also striving to have a presence overseas and Australia has a long standing reputation for delivering a high quality expertise with many being recognised internationally for their ability to do this.