Seven engineering disciplines have been added to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).
The PMSOL was created last year on the advice of the National Skills Commission and aims to support Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
Initially, only software and mechanical engineers were included on the list, but this recent expansion sees civil, structural, electrical, geotechnical, transport, mining and petroleum engineering added.
Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans AM HonFIEAust CPEng said she supports the move, but that this is only the first step.
“Resolving long-term skills supply challenges will require further action. Notably, less than half of overseas-born qualified engineers are in engineering roles, compared with two-thirds for their Australian-born peers,” Dr Evans said.
“More support is needed for migrant engineers to break into the domestic employment market to ensure the nation benefits from this under-utilised skills supply.”
Earlier this year, Engineers Australia petitioned the Skilled Migration Inquiry to address the skills shortage facing the engineering profession.
It called for the current migration program to be more specific and reconsider whether the program is attracting the right talent.
Australia’s engineering industry relies heavily on skilled migration, with almost 60 per cent of engineers working in Australia coming from overseas. However, the current visa process locks many out of the profession.
“Overseas-born engineers experience higher unemployment (7.6 per cent) than their Australian-born peers (3.7 per cent) and only 40.9 per cent end up working in an engineering role,” Dr Evans said.
Robert Power MIEAust CPEng, Group Manager of Engineering at FKG Group, said he was pleased to see the changes but believes the government could be doing more to bridge the skills gap.
“There’s not enough emphasis placed on graduates,” the Engineers Australia member and Chartered engineer told create.
“When the government focuses on the construction sector, it focuses on trades and apprenticeships. I think more can be done to promote development of degree qualified roles.”
Quotas for engineering graduates, like those for apprentices and trainees, should be included in government contracts, Power said.
“Most projects from the government have a training policy, but that’s all about certificates and trades,” he said.
“There’s nothing currently for graduates, and I think that’s a missed opportunity to foster home grown talent.”
Following the announcement, Dr Evans said she would now like to see the government develop a plan to begin reopening borders to actually get overseas talent into the country.
“This could include metrics that indicate when it is safe for the international border to re-open, such as vaccination rates, and nationally-aligned protocols for management of outbreaks,” she said.
Read Engineers Australia’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration here.