21 May 2021
Engineers Australia is calling for an overhaul of Australia’s skilled migration program in order to safeguard the nation’s engineering capability.
Almost 60 per cent of engineers in the Australian work force were born overseas, according to the 2016 census and while the demand for engineers is high, Engineers Australia believes the current skilled migration system is no longer working, with a serious mismatch between the objectives of the skilled migration program and what is being achieved in the community.
Engineers Australia made several recommendations to address the issues in a recent submission to the Skilled Migration Inquiry, being run by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration. This included refining the migration program’s objectives to be more specific and to consider if the program is designed to attract the right people.
In its submission, Engineers Australia called on the government to establish an inquiry to investigate the barriers keeping migrant engineers from working in the profession. The inquiry was essential for breaking down the barriers that prevent skilled migrants (in engineering and other professions) from making a full contribution within industry.
One organisation that has identified barriers and is tackling them head on is the Kaleidoscope Initiative in Western Australia.
The Initiative, delivered by the City of Stirling, City of Canning and the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre, aims to harness the economic benefits of its culturally diverse population. It helps newcomers to Australia secure employment in their field of expertise and supports employers to benefit from this diverse workforce.
The initiative has created a number of assisting newcomers to find employment in their fields of practice, with Engineers Australia supporting the Kaleidoscope Mentoring Program (KMP) in numerous ways.
Engineers Australia looked to its extensive membership and network to find engineering mentors for the growing cohort of mentees in the engineering sector. In the last cohort of mentees on the program, 42 per cent were engineers.
Now in its third year, the KMP has been highly successful. A survey showed 78 per cent of mentees were employed in their field at the six-month mark, after completing the program.
Importantly, 87 per cent of the mentees, prior to commencing the program, were unemployed or employed in survival jobs. The additional 13 per cent were under-employed in their industry.
Ashleigh Brand, Kaleidoscope Initiative Project Leader said many decades of research have shown that newcomers to Australia have the technical skills and experience to operate in their profession.
“What they may lack is local networks, specific knowledge about their industry and its recruitment practices, and knowledge about Australian workplace culture,” Brand said.
“When a mentee is matched with a mentor from their industry, they spend time exploring these issues and building professional networks, it makes all the difference.”
She said at the same time the mentor gains knowledge and skills in working with people from different cultural backgrounds, coaching and leadership training.
“The Kaleidoscope Mentoring Program really is a win-win program for all,” Brand said.