Media release
| 14 July 2023

Tens of thousands of qualified, skilled migrant engineers missing out on engineering work

Only 50 per cent of qualified engineers born overseas currently working in Australia are working as engineers – a reality that is impacting the nation’s ability to address the national infrastructure deficit and generate economic growth.

The latest figures on employment in the engineering sector come as Engineers Australia, the national peak body for the profession, hailed a breakthrough agreement with the Northern Territory government to get more overseas born engineers into work in the Territory, welcoming it as a template for other jurisdictions to follow.

The Global Engineering Talent (GET) program is an outcome of Engineers Australia’s Barriers to employment for skilled migrant engineers research, which found 47 per cent of migrant engineers actively seeking an engineering job are not working in the profession.

The Northern Territory Government has contributed to the program to help an initial 20 overseas-born engineers with a pathway to engineering employment in Australia.

In addressing the key findings of the research, the GET program will include a six-week preparatory course through Engineering Education Australia with engineering standards-specific training, and a 12-week paid internship at an engineering firm.

Commenting on the GET program, Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO said today that all states and territories should consider such initiatives.

“An army of well over 100,000 qualified, skilled engineers are currently in Australia; driving Ubers or doing some other kind of work that is not related to engineering. This is an emerging national disaster.”

“Australia’s skills crisis will get worse until this deep pool of un-utilised labour is tapped.”

The latest employment figures for engineers in Australia show:

  • Over 60 per cent of qualified engineers in Australia were born overseas 
  • However, these engineers are more likely than their Australian-born counterparts to be under or unemployed
  • There are 135,759 engineers working in engineering in Australia that were born overseas
  • There are 268,595 engineers in the labour force born overseas
  • Only 50 per cent of qualified engineers born overseas (in the labour force) work in engineering
  • Research conducted by Engineers Australia shows companies have both conscious and unconscious biases towards hiring migrant engineers
  • Australia’s engineering vacancies up 80 per cent from Jan ‘21 o Dec ‘22
  • Hiring migrant engineers would lessen current skills challenges facing employers

“A lack of skilled engineers is a problem facing major projects right across Australia. The Northern Territory government pilot programme will facilitate Australian employers having access to prepared, experienced and motivated engineers, looking to contribute to the Australian economy”, Ms Madew said.

“Every state and territory should consider this type of initiative.”